Word that Amazon is looking for a location to build its “second” headquarters has quickened pulses around Northern Virginia. The retailing giant has basically run out of room in Seattle, where it already occupies most of the choice real estate and is finding it increasingly hard to recruit technical talent in competition with its crosstown rival, Microsoft.
It’s expected that “HQ2,” as it’s known internally, would eventually employ up to 50,000 people — yes, that’s fifty thousand — and occupy millions of square feet of real estate. The company says it wants to be close to a large and diverse talent pool, an international airport, a major university system and affordable housing. Local leaders say they know just the spot.
“Fairfax County would love to be home to Amazon’s second headquarters. In our community they would find a well-educated, talented and motivated workforce, and an outstanding quality of life,” said Sharon Bulova, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in a statement to FairfaxNews.
Fairfax and the D.C. area already have one of the largest tech talent pools in the world, thanks to the army of defense and intelligence contractors and government agencies located here. Dulles International Airport is minutes away from Tysons and the Dulles Corridor, the area’s two major office locales. George Mason University, Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia all have campuses here and Georgetown, George Washington and other major D.C. schools are just a Metro ride away.
Besides Northern Virginia, locations being mentioned by analysts include Austin, Texas; New York/Newark; Los Angeles; Houston; Dallas; Philadelphia; and Miami. Interestingly, Mexico City and Toronto are also on the list. Both offer the advantages Amazon is seeking and both have much broader access to the international talent pool essential in the software industry, where jobs chronically exceed the supply of skilled, well-educated workers. The Trump Adminstration’s determination to tighten immigration laws could work against a U.S. site winning the competition.
Fairfax is, of course, already home to the East Coast campus of Amazon Web Services. Fairfax successfully competed against Texas and Washington State for the project in June, bringing an expected 1,500 more high-end jobs to the One Dulles Tower campus.
Competition for the HQ2 project will be fierce, however, and Amazon will no doubt be looking for a multi-billion-dollar tax incentive package. Whether Virginia and Fairfax are able to assemble their sometimes fractious political units to agree on a competitive package remains to be seen. This is, after all, a region that is still trying to agree on how to fund its transit system decades after construction began.
“With one of the largest technology workforces in the nation, Northern Virginia is an ideal home for Amazon Web Services’ East Coast corporate campus,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Todd Haymore when the deal for that facility was sealed earlier this year. The Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) worked with the General Assembly’s Major Employment and Investment (MEI) Project Approval Commission to secure that project.