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Durham, get your geek on -- Forbes calls us one of the five nerdiest American cities

Nerds Once upon a time, being called nerdy or geeky? Most definitely not cool. 

Back in the 80s, all the cool kids were looking to work on Wall Street or in D.C., where the corridors of power did not admit the pocket-protector set.

But with the Internet, mobile technology and the rise of tablets, apps and all manner of things technological, the nerdly are back. The revenge, one might say, of the nerds.

And a recent Forbes blog post highlights Durham as being among the most geeky of all geeky cities, noting a National Science Foundation's ranking of our MSA as fifth-highest in the US for the percentage of workers in science and engineering-oriented occupations.

In today's recession-weary economy, there's little question that those jobs offer a safer harbor (though one that's by no means free of risk) for employment security and income growth -- something that's helped our area make it through the recession with some of the lowest unemployment rates in the state.

Don't be put off, by the way, at Forbes' mention of Durham, NC as the #5 "geekiest city" with a mention of the "Raleigh-Durham-Cary" CMSA following in the text.

The NSF report upon which the Forbes post is based ranks "Durham, NC" as the MSA in question. That includes Durham and Chapel Hill, a four-county area that doesn't include Wake County.

(Of course, plenty of the jobs in question in RTP and elsewhere have commuter residents from Wake and elsewhere driving in, though I'll continue to argue that the commuting patterns of those who choose not to make Durham their home are a source of much of the "benign neglect" that makes Durham a great place to live for those of us who choose to live here.)

In fact, the Raleigh-Cary MSA doesn't rank in the top twenty nationally for percentage of science/engineering and STEM jobs, according to the underlying data from the NSF report:


Among the top five, Durham trails only the tech corridors in Silicon Valley, Boulder, the Route 9 corridor in Boston, and Space City for jobs as a percentage of the economy, and ranks ahead of DC, Seattle, Austin, Ann Arbor, and San Francisco, among other areas.

The NSF report is worth a glance-through for other, state-wide data that can be groaners at times. For instance, though North Carolina does better than many states in venture capital deals in nominal and percent-of-GDP numbers, our primary education spending as a percentage of state GDP is anemic -- making one wonder, for all we're good at importing smart people from other states with our universities and research parks, whether we might want to do a little more work growing them at home, too.

(Image credit Flickr user MacQ



So go ahead, Put us down
One of these days we'll turn it around
Won't be long, Mark my Words
Time has come for Revenge of the Nerds!!

Luther Blissett

Hang on a minute, BCR. Let's not confuse geeks with nerds. This venn diagram should help sort things out: Or perhaps this one is more appropriate:

Ben Folds

September '75 I was 47
Inches high
My mom said by Christmas I would have
A badass mother G.I. Joe
For your little minds to blow
I still got beat up after class

Now I'm big and important
One angry dwarf
And two hundred solemn faces
Are you
If you really want to see me
Check the papers and the T.V.
Look who's telling who what to do
Kiss my ass goodbye

Don't give me that bullshit
You know who I am
I'm your nightmare little man
Vic you stole my lunch money
Made me cry
Jane remember second grade
Said you couldn't stand my face
Rather than kiss me you said
You'd rather die


You'll be sorry one day
Yes you will, yes you will
You shouldn't push me around
Cause I will, yes I will
You will be sorry when I'm big
Yes you will, yes you will
You will be sorry


"I'll continue to argue that the commuting patterns of those who choose not to make Durham their home are a source of much of the "benign neglect" that makes Durham a great place to live for those of us who choose to live here."

Yes, but given the state continues to shift the burden of education cost onto counties, it sure would help DPS and county residents if these folks made Durham their home, thus boosting the test scores of local schools AND adding to the tax base.

I wish more of the Geeks who filter out of RTP everyday into other counties would make Durham home. We could properly handle the growth and benefit from more geeks per square mile in Durham. :)


Great news! I'm a native, so I don't hyphenate. Its just Durham for me! One thought - when informing the public, acronyms should be spelled out. No one outside of that field would know what you're talking about. NSF, MSA, CMSA can mean different things to different people and leave them uninformed. Great article though! May the Geeks rock on! :)


The flaw in your argument Tina is that we would have to enlarge our schools to hold the extra students. We would have more development/ environmental issues. I'd rather have the occasional child-free geek who loves slightly urban environments.

In other words, low impact the time they have kids hopefully we can afford them. In other words, BCR is on to something.

I don't think we should get into local payroll taxes either. That is a race to the bottom when cities begin competing for tax dollars.

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