Amazon’s efforts to spin-up its second headquarters in Arlington County, Va. are ahead of schedule, even if the effort to get people to call Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Potomac Yards “National Landing” is stalled. On Monday, the company’s vice president of workforce development, Ardine Williams, announced that Amazon has signed the first lease on temporary space and will be making its first hires for HQ2.
Those lucky first 400 employees will start work in June, according to Williams’s blog post on Amazon’s corporate website. They will occupy offices in a building on Crystal Drive while development continues on what Amazon promises will be “4 million square feet of energy efficient office space,” at a cost of $2.5 billion.
Amazon already employs around 8,500 people in Northern Virginia, a number that is sure to grow on its own if the company eventually wins the Pentagon’s massive $10 billion JEDI cloud computing contract. A little-reported part of the agreement between Amazon and Virginia officials is that no more than 10% of the jobs at HQ2 will be tied to the federal government, a key to reducing the region’s dependency of what a colleague of mine calls “Federal cheddar.”
Someone has to buy stuff for all these new employees, and someone has to get them paid and enrolled in benefits, so fittingly, the first five posted jobs of what the company says will be at least 25,000 new full-time jobs are for three procurement managers, a human resources specialist, and a financial analyst.
Virginia Approved $550 million in direct incentives
The Commonwealth of Virginia’s legislature approved a funding package during its 2019 session that fulfills many of Virginia’s promises to the company. Beginning in 2024, the state will pay Amazon $22,000 for each job created —as much as $550 million in total. Even if Amazon were to fill-out HQ2 by then, its first payout would be limited to $200 million, with further incentive payments continuing through 2030. If the company expands past 25,000 new hires, the state has committed to pay as much as $200 million more between 2031 and 2034.
The state will pay as much as $195 million for transportation improvements, including a new entrance to the Crystal City subway station and a pedestrian bridge to connect the neighborhood to Ronald Reagan National Airport, from funds it has already appropriated or planned for.
Virginia officials defend the spending, which could total $1.85 billion over 20 years, by pointing to the fact that those new jobs, which are supposed to pay an average of $150,000 per year, will generate at least $3.2 billion in revenue over the same period.
Amazon invests in education
Virginia isn’t just getting new jobs. Amazon has pledged to be a good neighbor (while also helping build its future workforce) by investing in local education. Through its “Amazon Future Engineer” program, the company will be providing both introductory and Advanced Placement computer science classes in 27 Virginia schools. The company said it is “also funding literacy programs, robotics clubs, and STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] labs in more than 50 schools across the Commonwealth.”
Personally, I don’t care what the doubters and cynics say. It’s an exciting time to be living in Northern Virginia thanks largely to HQ2. I’m looking forward to watching the rest of the story unfold.