Amazon HQ2 prompts $1B Virginia investment in computer tech grads

Amazon's HQ2 renderings show two 22-story office towers in Northern Virginia with rooftop garden views of the Potomac River and the Washington Monument. (Amazon/ZGF)

Amazon’s decision to locate a second headquarters in Arlington County, Virginia, prompted the state’s governor to formally commit nearly $1 billion last week to add 31,000 graduates in computer science and related fields over two decades at 11 universities.

That number of grads is roughly double the number of current graduates with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science and related areas. Virginia’s legislature approved the Tech Talent Investment Program (TTIP) earlier this year, and Gov. Ralph Northam announced the formal agreements with the universities on Nov. 7.

TTIP grew out of the agreement with Amazon to locate its second headquarters in Northern Virginia along the Potomac River across from Washington, D.C., a location picked by Amazon in November 2018. Amazon has said it expects to create 25,000 high tech jobs over roughly 12 years at a cost of about $2.5 billion.

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Amazon is beginning construction on its so-called HQ2 project in 2020 with two 22-story office towers providing 2.1 million square feet of space that could be completed by early 2023, according to Washington Business Journal and other reports.

Northam called the TTIP an “investment in Virginians” and said that the new graduates “will fill jobs at hundreds of tech companies around the Commonwealth, including at Amazon…”

The increase in state funding is expected to be $961 million over 20 years for constructing new buildings and hiring professors and staff on the various campuses. The universities must also raise funds and meet certain enrollment targets under their agreements with the state.

Virginia Tech, George Mason University and the University of Virginia have by far the largest targeted increases. All 11 universities applied for the funding, and some community colleges will be subject to subsequent agreements. Statewide, about 1,300 bachelor’s degrees and 400 master’s degrees in computer science are already granted currently per year.

Over 20 years, Virginia Tech has committed to produce 5,911 bachelor’s and 10,324 master’s degrees over their current number, while George Mason has committed to 2,277 bachelor’s and 5,328 master’s degrees. UVA has committed to adding 3,416 bachelor’s degrees.

The remaining colleges in the program and their bachelor’s degree commitments are: William & Mary (930), Old Dominion University (765), Virginia Commonwealth University (722), James Madison University (467), Radford University (394), Christopher Newport University (392), Virginia State University (186) and Norfolk State university (126).

Virginia Tech is planning a graduate-level Innovation Campus in Alexandria, Virginia, near the new Amazon headquarters to support the TTIF initiative and has secured $168 million from the state for its first academic building.

The first class of the $1 billion Innovation Campus will open in fall 2020, but the first building should be complete in 2024.  Virginia Tech expects to grow its number of master’s degrees in computer science and computer engineering from 97 students to 739 students by 2026-2027.

The Innovation Campus also expects to hire 50 research and teaching faculty and enroll up to 750 master’s candidates and hundreds of doctoral and postdoctoral fellows when the new campus is complete about 2029.

RELATED: Amazon’s HQ2 arrival touches old Virginia coal mining country 

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