By Phil Rabin

The announcement that Amazon, over time, will create a significant number of jobs in Crystal City, VA,  has the potential for having a profound impact on the mid-Atlantic if, for no other reason, Amazon will be offering jobs to many people who are already employed in the area, meaning that employers will have to increase salaries and perks to keep current employees and/or attract new ones – and, in fact, we have already started to hear that concern.

In addition, as Amazon establishes itself in this marketplace, it is logical to assume that other businesses will also establish a presence in the D.C. area to tap into the growing pool of high-tech employees based or migrating here, putting further pressure on employers to provide a more attractive range of perks to attract and keep talent.

And, it is reasonable to assume that the overall net result will be a repositioning of the D.C. area from being a city focused on government to one with a strong focus on high tech, making it attractive for employees from outside the immediate D.C. area – specifically Baltimore and perhaps Richmond – to relocate closer to D.C. to take part in the expanding job market created by Amazon and others.

Of note, the area already has a very strong high-tech presence.

According to a 2017 Destination DC item in Washington Business Journal:

“By the numbers, the D.C. region contains more than 1,000 startups and 185,000 high-tech employees, including 27,000 cybersecurity jobs. High-tech employment is 2.5 times more concentrated in the D.C. metro area than the rest of the United States.

“Venture capitalists near and far are fueling this landscape of innovation from initial seeds and beyond. In fact, five of the top 100 investors in early startup tech and biotech companies are located in the metro D.C. area, according to entrepreneur.com.

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the metro D.C. area ranks number one in high-tech employment concentration, thanks to its skilled workforce — 50 percent of the region’s residents have a college degree compared to 33 percent nationally. There are more than 10 local colleges headquartered in the area, and the nearby states of Maryland and Virginia lead the nation in concentration of bachelor’s degrees in STEM disciplines.

“Altogether this means companies … will have easy access to the talent pool and the next generation of employees that will help them prosper.”

There are, of course, a number of downsides, as the cost of living can be expected to rise in this area and if you examine the Bay Area in California and other areas with a significant high-tech community, you will also find that it will impact, negatively, those whose incomes do not increase to keep pace with the influx of those who secure significant incomes.  In fact, it would be wise to investigate the impact of the high-tech community on the Bay Area.

According to a 2018 press report, there have been a number of attacks on buses that bring high-tech workers to/from San Francisco and Silicon Valley, with this one stating: “California police are using decoy “bait buses” to try to catch attackers who have been firing BB guns at coaches taking Google, Apple and other tech company workers from their San Francisco homes to their Silicon Valley offices.

“The motive for the attacks is unclear, but previously the luxury coaches – known by the catch-all term ‘Google buses’ – have been the target of peaceful protests by those who blame the influx of thousands of tech workers on gentrification and unaffordable rents in San Francisco.

“In (a 45-day period) there have been at least 20 attacks on the coaches by someone firing metal balls from a BB gun, causing damage to the vehicles’ windows and exteriors.

“On January 16 alone, five buses were hit as they carried Apple and Google employees along the Interstate 280 highway between the city and San Francisco Bay area’s Silicon Valley.

“In response, Google and Apple changed the routes of their shuttle buses.”

While it’s unlikely there will be a repeat of that situation here – where a caravan of buses bring workers to Crystal City – the larger issue is the impact of a large number of additional high-tech workers on the larger community.

It seems apparent that while the overall community will benefit from the additional economic base that a larger and more robust high-tech community will bring, this long-term “blessing” can turn into a “curse” to those left behind.

To employees, the message is clear: To benefit from the arrival of Amazon  and others, make sure your skills are focused on what potential employers will want in 2019 and coming years and make an investment now, in terms of time and education, to assure that you are among those who will be part of the new Washington that kicks into high gear soon –  in fact, it will start in only a few months.

 

Phil Rabin is editor of Capitol Communicator and the post above reflects his opinion.  If you have your own thoughts, let us know.

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