Virginia is for Amazon Lovers

HQ2

Amazon is making a major impact on Virginia in many ways. In November of 2018, Amazon announced Arlington, VA would be the location of its second U.S. headquarters (also known as “HQ2”). Amazon will invest approximately $2.5 billion on the headquarters in National Landing. The decision to locate HQ2 in Northern Virginia will have a major effect on the state. The online retailer’s investment in Virginia will generate many benefits. Job growth is one of the leading benefits with the creation of 25,000 new jobs over the next 12 years. Below are more benefits, as highlighted by “The Northern Virginia Proposal for Amazon’s New Headquarters”:

• A transformational opportunity to drive diversification and innovation throughout Virginia
• Retention of college grads and reversal of out-migration trend
• Doubling of Virginia’s tech-talent pipeline, benefiting all tech firms
• Post-performance incentives, with positive General Fund revenues from day one
• Transportation commitments funded by non-General Fund sources
• $1.2B+ in net new General Fund $s after all obligations (over 20 years at 25k jobs)
• Scale and character of growth aligned wit,h existing community plans
• ~$700 million in new Higher Ed and K12 funding outside of NOVA

Growing concerns

Although the benefits are attractive, there are concerns about Amazon’s expansion into Northern Virginia. Many citizens are concerned about increased traffic and the escalation of housing costs. Virginia plans to mitigate these concerns with state and local investments. In addition, the Commonwealth of Virginia is “committed to match the scale and structure of the financial
commitment for HQ2 with the ambition of the project through a combination of company commitments and investments in our state and regional competitiveness for all technology firms and corporate headquarters”. Virginia will also launch a series of initiatives to aid with growing tech talent and infrastructure.

New Investments in Higher Education

On November 7, 2019, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia would invest in “the Commonwealth’s tech talent pipeline” to create 31,000 new computer science graduates over 20 years.

Virginia’s “Tech Talent Investment Program” (TTIP), will commit up to $1.1 billion. This will more than double the annual number of graduates with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer
science and closely related fields. Governor Northam signed agreements with the 11 universities below to solidify TTIP.

• Virginia Tech
• George Mason University
• The University of Virginia
• William & Mary
• Old Dominion University
• Virginia Commonwealth University
• James Madison University
• Radford University
• Christopher Newport University
• Virginia State University
• Norfolk State University

While this announcement is encouraging, it does present staffing challenges for universities. Many of the universities are beginning to feel the pressure to hire more qualified faculty. In a January 31, 2020 article from Virginia Business titled “Now hiring: Computer science faculty”, Cal Ribbens, head of Virginia Tech’s
computer science department, said, “there’s a ripple effect in the undergraduate level all across campus. Increased computer engineering enrollment will require more math and physics faculty”. In this same article, Virginia Tech and George
Mason University discussed their faculty recruitment and retention approaches to meet the demand. Companies in the region may encounter similar challenges when they seek to recruit tech talent. Employers may see themselves in bidding wars for talent until the rate of graduates increase.

Amazon’s HQ2 creates the possibility for unique opportunities and partnerships in the public sector, tech community and higher education. Along with these opportunities are challenges in infrastructure and the development and retention of tech talent. Problem solvers are only limited by their creativity and their ability to persevere to sustainable solutions.

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