Transportation amenities and high-tech firm location: An empirical study of high-tech clusters

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Contribution to a Book

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Transportation Research Record







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Clustering and active transportation infrastructures have a significant impact on economic development strategies for attracting high-tech firms. High-tech firms cluster to create economies of scale. In theory, such clusters favor walkable and transit-accessible locations following the preferences of footloose workers of the creative class, an expectation that underpins pro-walkability and transit-accessible development strategies. Such approaches, however, fail to consider countervailing factors including changes in logistics, land values, the rise of the e-economy, and gig workers, which could result in a preference for auto-centric locations. This study addresses the knowledge gap by investigating differences in location behaviors of six high-tech sectoral categories with respect to transportation infrastructures. The analysis uses a firm-level micro dataset provided by Esri along with multiple logit regressions to explore the relationship between high-tech firm locations and transportation amenities in 627 high-tech clusters from the 52 largest U.S. regions. The results show that not all high-tech industries opt for walkable and transit-accessible locations. Compared with other high-tech specializations, professional services (i.e., data processing/computer or engineering and architectural services), which account for the largest share of high-tech employees, are drawn to walkable and transit rich areas near central business districts. On the other hand, auto-centric locations on the peripheries are home to aerospace and bio-pharmaceutical industries. In light of these findings, it is essential that economic development officials aiming to achieve balanced growth consider major local high-tech sector(s) and sectoral differences when making policy decisions.


Urban and Regional Planning