November 6, 2018

Officials: Amazon HQ2 in NY could boost CT's tech hiring

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
PHOTO | Contributed
Amazon's distribution center in Windsor.

Amazon is rumored to be nearing a deal to split its second headquarters into two locations in Queens, N.Y., and Arlington, Va., according to several news reports Monday night.

The e-commerce company's idea to split Amazon HQ2 into two locations is simple: It offers a larger pool to recruit and hire 50,000 high-tech workers.

With Amazon potentially planting a flag in the banks of Long Island, what does that mean for Connecticut as companies like IT and outsourcing provider Infosys and global fintech Ideanomics eye luring thousands of tech workers to Greater Hartford?

The trickle down from Amazon's massive hiring effort could mean a larger, higher-skilled tech workforce to pluck from in Connecticut, industry experts say. After all, Queens is less than 30 miles from Greenwich and Stamford, and just over 100 miles from Greater Hartford.

Bruce Carlson, outgoing CEO and president of the Connecticut Technology Council (CTC), says a new Amazon hub in New York adds value to Connecticut's tech scene.

Workers leaving the Queens location will be looking for a new home, and Connecticut will surface as a viable landing spot, Carlson says.

"I think having Amazon nearby is a huge plus for the state's tech sector," he said Tuesday. "Sometimes we get bogged down by this issue of state lines. Queens is not very far from Connecticut."

Carlson said part of the excitement when Connecticut pitched to host Amazon HQ2, which narrowed its search to 20 cities outside the state, was the prospect of the company training a significant pool of workers.

"When we talked about Amazon in Connecticut, tech companies were excited that Amazon would upskill employees," he said.

Amazon boosting its East Coast presence is a major plus for Connecticut, says Joe Brennan, CEO and president of the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, the state's largest business lobby.

Especially given the company's presence in Windsor and Wallingford, Brennan said Amazon opening new headquarters in nearby Queens will help "create new synergies" and attract companies to the area.

"This puts the East Coast on the map for tech jobs and tech companies," he said. "You have to look at the region as a hub, and this really enhances that."

For state officials, the impact of Amazon's buildout in New York is less clear.

"It is too early to speculate on the potential impact without understanding the full scope of the project," said Jim Watson, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD). "What is clear is the fact more tech-driven companies like Infosys and Ideanomics are taking advantage of Connecticut's highly skilled, highly educated workforce -- a very positive sign for our economy moving forward."

What we know about Amazon HQ2

Amazon sent cities across North America into a frenzy last year when it announced its search. Billed as HQ2, the new facility --- or facilities --- will cost at least $5 billion to construct and will create as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs over the next 10 to 15 years. Employees at Amazon's main campus in Seattle will be offered the chance to relocate.

The company has narrowed 238 proposals down to 20 finalists, and executives have traveled across the United States and to one Canadian city to survey sites for Amazon's new home.

What qualities is Amazon seeking for HQ2?

The expected 50,000 people who will eventually work at the new headquarters will bring a huge economic boost to the winning city -- or cities. The fact that the jobs pay well makes the opportunity even more attractive.

But the cities must have certain attributes.

In its request for proposals, Amazon outlined several criteria for HQ2, including proximity to a major airport and the ability to attract technical talent. It must be a suburban or urban area with more than 1 million people. Amazon also said it was looking for communities that offer a "stable and business-friendly" environment and access to mass transit.

Which cities are in the running?

In January, Amazon announced a list of 20 finalists for HQ2, including: Atlanta; Austin; Boston; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Miami; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville; Newark; New York City; Northern Virginia; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Raleigh; Toronto; and Washington, D.C.

Over the past weekend, The Washington Post reported that Northern Virginia's Crystal City was in advanced talks with Amazon for the second headquarters. The Wall Street Journal on Sunday said not only Crystal City but also Dallas and New York City were in late-stage discussions with the company. A decision could be announced this week.

A CNN report contributed to this story

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