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Is Sacramento a tech boomtown?

The state capital--not Silicon Valley--is the fastest growing region in California's high-tech industry, a new study shows.

The state capital--not Silicon Valley--is the fastest growing region in California's high-tech industry, which is spreading beyond San Jose and into other Northern California cities, a new study shows.

Sacramento is the fastest-growing city in California for high-tech employment, with a 56 percent growth rate between 1990 and 1996, according to a report titled "California Cybercities" released today by the high-tech trade group American Electronics Association.

The study, conducted in 18 metropolitan California cities with at least 1,000 high-tech industry employees, shows that Fresno is the second-fastest growing computer industry region, with a 54 percent growth rate between 1990 and 1996. Fresno is the only city in the top five fastest-growing not located in Northern California.

Closer to the Bay Area, Vallejo-Napa area jobs grew at a 46 percent rate,

Top California cybercities, 1990-1996
City Tech employment growth
Sacramento 56%
Fresno 54%
Vallejo-Napa 46%
San Francisco 37%
Santa Cruz 28%
Source: American Electronics Association
while San Francisco high-tech employment grew at a 37 percent clip and Santa Cruz, a college and beach community, saw a growth rate of 28 percent between 1990 and 1996.

Sacramento, known more for its government and agriculture employment than as a technology-rich region, added nearly 11,000 new computer industry jobs to the high-tech economy during the six-year span.

"The cost of living here is affordable and it's an ideal location halfway between the mountains and the ocean," said Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Marlee Miller.

Miller said the Sacramento area's largest employers include: Hewlett-Packard with 4,800 employees in neighboring Roseville, Packard Bell NEC with 3,800, and Intel with 3,700 in nearby Folsom.

The growth rate in the San Jose metropolitan area may be slowing, but the region still employs 221,000 high-tech workers, or about 30 percent of the 724,000 high-tech jobs in California state. Although Sacramento added about 5,600 semiconductor workers between 1990 and 1996 and is the No. 2 employer in the state's chip industry, San Jose still has eight times as many semiconductor industry employees as California's capital city.

The average high-tech employee in San Jose earns $72,000, according to the study.

But while Silicon Valley gets all the headlines, Southern California also is a vital part of the state's technology-based economy.

Many businesses in the defense industry-oriented Los Angeles region retooled after military cutbacks and recession in the early 1990s. Now Southern California accounts for more than 40 percent of the total number of high-tech jobs in California, the AEA report found.

The study found that, in general, high-tech employees earn 57 percent more than the average private sector worker.