Amazon’s search for a second headquarters city is nearing a finale – but only one of the apparent front runners would offer it much of a discount on wages.
The giant retailer, which is considering access to tech talent as well as transportation and culture in its hunt for a city to staff 50,000 employees, is narrowing in on New York, Dallas and Crystal City, Va., according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited unnamed people who said it may decide to split HQ2 among two cities.
They’d be intriguing choices from a talent perspective. All three metro areas have bigger tech labor pools than Seattle, but only in Dallas-Ft. Worth would Amazon likely get a significantly lower payroll.
The average tech salary in the Washington, D.C., area as of April 2018 was $111,000, compared to $117,300 in Seattle and $112,600 in New York, according to stats compiled by the commercial real estate firm CBRE. Dallas-Ft. Worth tech workers are more of a bargain, with an average wage of $96,600. (That includes software developers and programmers, computer support and database workers, information systems managers and tech engineering-related jobs.)
If the economy stays strong, Amazon is going to need a deep pool to recruit from wherever it chooses to land and hire 50,000 workers – the tech unemployment rate nationally stood at 2% in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The tight labor market could be a factor in a decision to build offices in two cities rather than one. In the D.C. area, the tech job count shrank 1.3% from 2012 to 2017 to 248,150 jobs, but that’s still a 70% bigger workforce than Seattle’s (145,100, 19.4% growth). New York’s tech job count expanded 17% over that period to 254,300, and Dallas’ grew 15.3% to 160,800.
One factor Amazon said it would weigh in judging potential HQ2 sites was the supply of new talent from local universities. No shade on the University of Washington, but New York, Dallas and the D.C. area all produce more new graduates with tech degrees than Seattle. In Washington, D.C., local universities churned out 10,526 new tech grads from 2011-16, compared to 3,300 in Seattle, 12,000 in New York and 5,700 in Dallas.
How about quality of talent? CBRE rates New York and Washington, D.C., ‘very high’ based on the presence of graduates from the top 25 computer science programs, and Dallas ‘high,’ but none hold a candle (or trackpad) to Seattle.