Tampa Bay technology job recruiter Fritz Eichelberger has hosted his "Pure and Shameless" tech networking socials for so long they have evolved into an economic barometer in their own right.
After the tech bubble burst in 2000, his tech social — held at the former Dan Marino's watering hole at the once booming BayWalk in St. Petersburg — was dubbed a pink slip party. That's where so many who so quickly lost their technology jobs came to swap sob stories and look for employment leads.
Flash forward. Eichelberger last week hosted his latest tech social, this time at the Blue Martini at International Plaza in Tampa.
Despite jobless rates sky high in Tampa Bay, the mood was festive, says Eichelberger. He still hosts his enduring tech gatherings wearing a signature yellow Tommy Bahama shirt.
"The place was jam packed. Lots of firms were there looking to hire," says Eichelberger, 44, and CEO of his Hot Spaces.Net recruiting firm in Tampa (soon expanding to Orlando). "I am as busy as humanly possible."
Meet Tampa Bay's most bullish watcher of a key slice of the job market.
Eichelberger says national demand for certain information technology skills are booming with some of his clients getting "three, four or five" job offers at once.
What's in demand? Jobs in four sectors, he says:
• Software development, data warehouse and business intelligence. Translation? Job demand is high for web developers and builders of mobile applications for wireless products, from cell phones to iPads. Also hot: Skills that let businesses learn more from their customer data.
• Interactive marketing. Translation? People who know how to shift advertising needs from old to new media like Facebook, Twitter, websites, e-mail marketing and mobile applications.
• Technology sales. Companies creating new products and marketing them need sales people to close the deals.
• Finally, health care tech probably tops Eichelberger's list of "jobs most likely to stay hot for decades." Why? Health care's going paperless and needs tech-skilled people to make it all work — just as the huge bulge of baby boomers start to reach retirement age when medical needs soar.
The tech recruiter says job openings are greatest in Silicon Valley. But demand for similar jobs in Florida is not far behind.
Eichelberger rattles off area health care firms from Baycare health system to Tampa General Hospital to WellCare as businesses adding people with specialized skills.
Fast-growing firms are hiring so quickly they are disrupting the job market, paying premiums for top talent. Old media firms are forced to pay bigger bucks, too, for the opposite reason. People demand more money to work with yesteryear technology because they know their market skills will suffer as a result.
If tech jobs are so in demand, is a broader recovery in the making?
"Is this a groundswell for the larger economy? I can't tell you that," he says.
Tampa Bay is so heavily invested in real estate and building. "Until that starts moving again," he says, "I'm not sure where the overall market is headed."
No barometer's perfect.
Robert Trigaux can be reached at email@example.com.