New ranking puts Dayton at No. 5 of 94 midsize cities for innovative workforce
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LEFT: A Lift Aircraft pilot demonstrates its advanced air mobility system, or flying car, during the Advanced Air Mobility Showcase at Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport. The event featured some of the top companies in the world of advanced air mobility systems as they showed their flying vehicles and technology.
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RIGHT: The Engineering and Science Hall of Fame at the Engineers Club of Dayton honors inventors from Dayton and beyond. Advocates say the city is still a cradle of creativity something a recent ranking from SmartestDollar.com supports.
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By Thomas Gnau - Staff Writer
Your innovative people are getting noticed again, Dayton.

Dayton ranked 5th out of 94 midsize metropolitan areas for its number and concentration of workers in jobs requiring innovation, according to a new ranking from finance web site SmartestDollar.com.

The site’s ranking for midsize metropolitan areas gives Dayton a composite index of 60.37, weighing principally the city’s share of workers with the most innovative jobs, total workers in the most innovative jobs (in Dayton’s case, 12,990), average annual wage for all workers ($54,960, also in Dayton’s case) as well as the average annual wage for workers in the most innovative jobs ($83,754).


The data used in this analysis was pulled from O*NET’s Occupation-Level Innovation Score and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, a spokesman for the web site said. (Spokesman Mike LaFirenza declined to make researchers available for an interview.) With that data, researchers calculated a “composite innovation index,” which is an employment-weighted average of the occupation-level innovation scores for each city, as LaFirenza put it.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re familiar with the Dayton area’s history of bringing innovations to tangible reality, from the first practical airplane to the pop-top can to the latest weapons systems and software coming out of programs managed by Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the center of gravity for Air Force logistics and weapons development.

Increasingly, testing and development of electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, also called “flying cars,” happens in Springfield, overseen by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson.

“If you look at their criteria, it’s not surprising,” said Jeff Graley, co-founder and partner in fast-growing Dayton software firm and defense contractor Mile Two. “We have a high density of scientists and engineers at the base, universities, and local companies.

One of the other things that caught my eye was that several of the cities were near air and space bases.”

Lexington Park, Md., which ranks atop the list for small metro areas, is near a U.S. Navy air station and test center. Warner-Robins, Ga., ranked third among small metros, is near an Air Force base.

Dennis Andersh, president and chief executive of Beavercreek’s Parallax Advanced Research, isn’t surprised by the ranking.

But he notices that sometimes those outside Dayton are taken aback by this region’s history.

“It’s not surprising that it is ranked so high, given all the unique talent that works at Wright-Patt ... and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), too,” he said.

NASIC, at Wright-Patterson, is responsible for gathering information about threats to national security in the air and space.

“The Dayton region offers incredible opportunities for people looking to build a career in innovative fields,” said Julie Sullivan, Dayton Development Coalition executive vice president of regional development.

“STEM graduates can explore jobs in cyber, aerospace, and manufacturing, as well as find a supportive community to build their own businesses. More companies are developing IP (intellectual properties) here, as well, positioning the region as a place for innovative individuals to take great ideas to the next level.”

SmartestDollar’s ranking goes beyond engineering jobs, though. The site said innovative jobs are found in a wide range of disciplines beyond STEM fields, from the arts to education to entertainment.

“Many of the most innovative jobs according to O*NET are found in the arts, including highly creative jobs like choreographers, poets/lyricists, and writers/authors,” the site said. “Innovative jobs also include STEM fields like mechanical engineering and biochemistry & biophysics, along with positions that bridge technology and the arts, like video game design.”

See more about the ranking at https://smartestdollar.com/research/cities-with-the-most-innovative-workers-2022.

Contact this reporter at (937) 681-5610 or email tom. gnau@coxinc.com.