In July, the city of St. Louis had reason to feel good about itself. Emerson opened the doors of a state-of-the art, 35,000-square-foot global data center that features a 7,800-square-foot rooftop solar array, the largest in Missouri. Its more than 550 solar panels can generate 100 kilowatts of energy, or enough to power the average American home for more than three days.
Emerson anticipates the center will have 99.982 percent uptime, which is critical for a company with operations across more than 200 manufacturing locations around the world, according to St. Louis Business and Technology News. Emerson employs 2,400 people in the city.
Considering that St. Louis isn't known as a technology center, Emerson's achievement is notable. BusinessWeek recently identified St. Louis as the 43rd "best city for tech jobs," with the leading category being computer systems design. Not a stellar ranking.
Still, recruiters are seeing signs that demand for technology professionals is on the uptick, particularly for contract workers specializing in .NET application development and infrastructure technology. "In the second quarter, we saw a pick up in demand for .NET developers and Microsoft Access developers and in Q3 we saw the infrastructure market pick up tremendously," says Lisa Schneider, a recruiter for Robert Half Technology in the St. Louis office. "It's also a lot of permanent positions on the infrastructure side. I would say we have seen a 50 percent increase in the demand for infrastructure workers since January 2009."
That's good news, but keep it in perspective: Since July 2008, the number of tech jobs in St. Louis posted on Dice declined nearly 55 percent, from 987 last year to 446 last month.
Tisha Mason, managing director for Manpower Professional's St. Louis office, has also seen an increase in demand from her clients. "Companies that have laid off workers are starting to hire again," she reports. "Eighty to 85 percent of the jobs have been on the contract side, but the fact they're opening up and hiring contractors is a sign things are changing."
The skill sets in demand from her clients include application developers for Java, and .NET as well as Cisco network engineers to develop software. However, Mason hasn't seen much demand for project managers and business analysts. In addition to finance and healthcare, she sees demand coming from telecommunications and utilities firms.
The overall employment picture for St. Louis looks bleak. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the cityÂ¿s unemployment rate was at 9.9 percent in June, up from the 9 percent recorded in May.