Virginia Tech Talent Pipeline Pulled in Amazon’s HQ2

Virginia’s “pipeline” of tech talent helped the state land Amazon’s second headquarters (dubbed “HQ2”), according to CNBC.

Amazon originally intended to build two headquarters facilities, one in New York City and the other in Northern Virginia. However, some New York City politicians and citizens protested the plan strongly enough to deter the company. Instead, the project’s sole focus shifted to Virginia (seen in the splendid photo above). 

During the initial search, Amazon reportedly analyzed the size and future of various states’ tech workforces. “It turns out that tech talent was the biggest driving factor for us,” Brian Huseman, Amazon’s vice president for public policy, told CNBC. “Both tech talent on day one, but also tech talent in the future.”

Thanks to that pipeline, Amazon will hire 25,000 employees in Virginia over the next decade. Virginia’s government offered the company some $750 million in tax incentives, far less than other states (New Jersey was willing to pony up $7 billion, for instance), but decided to emphasize the quality of the local workforce. That tactic evidently worked.

“It’s not just monetary incentives, but it’s looking at the comprehensive environment to allow companies to flourish,” Huseman added.

Amazon had a presence in Virginia long before HQ2, of course; one of its most prominent datacenters is in the northern portion of the state. In addition, the state is already home to any number of tech firms, including contractors for the federal government. According to the most recent Dice Salary Survey, the average tech professional in Virginia earns $101,935 per year, up 4.4 percent from a year ago. (In nearby Washington, D.C., meanwhile, tech professional salaries average $102,394, up 7.2 percent year-over-year.)

Virginia’s status as a major tech hub means Amazon will probably end up paying a significant premium if it wants highly specialized tech professionals. Then again, the company has shown that it’s willing to pay for talent—entry-level software engineers, for example, can expect to earn an average of $108,000 in base salary, in addition to bonuses of $51,142 and stock options worth $70,000 (which vest over a four-year schedule).

For those students and new graduates who live in Virginia, and aspire to a career in tech, Amazon might have a plethora of local opportunities available in the years ahead. But considering Virginia’s position as a tech hub, there are lots of other choices out there, as well.