Amazon's next challenge: Finding all those workers

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 11/13/2018, 1:28 p.m.
When Amazon arrives in the northern Virginia suburb of Crystal City, eventually bringing 25,000 jobs as part of its vaunted ...
When Amazon arrives in the northern Virginia suburb of Crystal City, eventually bringing 25,000 jobs as part of its vaunted headquarters expansion, the tech behemoth will quickly become one of the region's biggest employers.

By Lydia DePillis, CNN Business

(CNN) -- When Amazon arrives in the northern Virginia suburb of Crystal City, eventually bringing 25,000 jobs as part of its vaunted headquarters expansion, the tech behemoth will quickly become one of the region's biggest employers.

It will be as big as the Pentagon, where about 26,000 people work. It would almost match the District of Columbia's local government payroll. It would be more than double the staff of the House and the Senate combined.

And finding all those people? That's going to be a challenge.

The DC-area unemployment rate is 3.3%, well below the national average — but that likely masks the even lower availability of the types of professionals Amazon will be looking for.

The Seattle-based behemoth announced Tuesday that it will expand to both Crystal City and the New York neighborhood of Long Island City, splitting the 50,000 jobs it had originally said would go to a single second headquarters.

In its request for proposals from prospective host cities, Amazon said that the positions at its new headquarters will include executives and managers, software development engineers, lawyers, accountants, and administrators. Tuesday's announcement said they will have an average salary of at least $150,000 a year.

While Amazon will certainly recruit from outside the area, people who already live in the Washington area would be easy targets, especially since the company will simultaneously be trying to recruit 25,000 people for its other new headquarters location in New York.

"It's a name that you want to work for. It's a name that everybody knows," says Chris Vennitti, president of the Reston, Virginia-based recruiting and staffing firm HireStrategy. "This area has never seen anything on the size and scale of an Amazon coming to our area and pulling from other companies."

Employers are already under pressure to attract and retain talent given the booming economy in the area.

The consulting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, for example, has hired 780 net new people over just the past quarter. In its recruiting materials, it emphasizes how its employees make an impact, collaborate with diverse colleagues, and stay on the leading edge of technology — all things that young workers say they care about. In 2016, Booz's DC office opened an "Innovation Center" to host teams that work on projects including cybersecurity, data analytics, and healthcare IT.

"We are very much holding our own in the current environment and expect that will continue," says Betty Thompson, Booz Allen's senior vice president for people services. "We are not afraid of the competition."

Although not as flashy as Silicon Valley or Seattle, Northern Virginia has a long lineage of technology entrepreneurship, thanks in part to research performed at places like the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, widely known by its acronym DARPA, as well as access to institutional clients like trade associations and government agencies.

America Online spent its formative years in an office park in what would become Tysons Corner, about halfway between downtown Washington and Dulles Airport in northern Virginia. Nextel, a wireless service provider that later merged with sprint, was born in Reston, a planned community near Dulles.