Amazon Emphasizes Tech Talent as Baltimore Misses HQ2 Final 20

| February 15, 2018 | 2 Comments

Officials from the Plank Industries, the parent company of Sagamore Development which is the team behind the 235-acre Port Covington redevelopment, and the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) held a media meeting on Wednesday to discuss the unsuccessful bid for Amazon’s second North American Headquarters (HQ2). During the meeting, the groups also detailed their brief discussions with Amazon officials.

Plank Industries and the BDC did not receive a lot of information pertaining to why Baltimore’s proposal did not make Amazon’s final 20, but “tech talent” was emphasized as the key factor Amazon officials were looking during a short phone call. Tom Geddes, CEO of Plank Industries, said he spoke to officials from other proposals that missed the top 20 and that they were also told tech talent was the key issue.

“The feedback was talent, talent, talent,” said Geddes.

According to a study by Richard Clinch, director of The Jacob France Institute, the Baltimore Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has 62,112 workers in computer and mathematical occupations, but the Washington, D.C. MSA has 207,902, which is over three times as many workers. Three proposals in the Washington MSA – Montgomery County (MD), Northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C. – were chosen by Amazon for the final 20.

Other cities included in the study that made Amazon’s final 20 include Atlanta MSA at 104,655 computer and mathematical occupational workers, Philadelphia MSA at 94,117 workers, Denver MSA at 65,819 workers, Austin MSA at 51,336 workers, and Raleigh-Durham MSA at 43,882.

When discussing tech talent, Amazon officials told the Baltimore team they are heading in the right direction.

Geddes said that Amazon was very interested in the “blank slate” that the largely undeveloped Port Covington offers for installing new technology infrastructure. Chapter 1 of infrastructure improvements is expected to begin at Port Covington this year. The proposal highlighted its proximity to fellow Port Covington business TE Subsea Communications.

This section of the proposal reads, “Amazon’s proximity to TE Subsea Communications headquarters would give it the ability to establish a direct fiber-optic connection to anywhere in the world. Currently, a 144-pair single-mode fiber enters Port Covington with significant dark fiber via the Inter-County Broadband Network (ICBN), a statewide initiative providing backbone fiber and backhaul connectivity to major colocation sites and connecting Port Covington to Baltimore City and other Maryland counties.”

William Cole, president and CEO of the BDC, noted that Amazon was asked on the call if crime or transportation played a role in the decision. He said they did not give a direct answer but told the Baltimore team to keep up the good work in those areas.

The proposal emphasized the low crime rate in Port Covington and surrounding South Baltimore neighborhoods. It also highlighted the public transportation proposed for Port Covington which includes two Light Rail stops, three Baltimore Water Taxi stops, a site bus circulator, a trail system, and bike infrastructure.

The proposal also included a video titled “Explore A Day In The Life of A Baltimore Professional” highlighting Baltimore’s waterfront lifestyle, social scene, and tech industry. An Amazon Firebox tablet was also included in the proposal package with a custom app built by Plank Industries to show the three layers of development at Port Covington: the underground infrastructure, the ground-level layout, and vertical building renderings.

Marcus Stephens of Plank Industries served as the Executive Creative Director for the Amazon proposal.

“We heard a lot of the things Amazon liked, but they didn’t get to the negative,” said Geddes.

When asked if this process is a publicity stunt by Amazon, which may already know where HQ2 will land, Geddes said that he does not believe it is.

Geddes noted that Kevin Plank, owner of Plank Industries and the founder and CEO of Under Armour, does know Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos, but that Plank was not actively involved in the proposal process.

BDC and Plank Industries officials called the bid “time well spent,” and said it positions Baltimore and Port Covington well to lure additional businesses. Plank Industries partnered with local universities, businesses, and organizations on the proposal which offered data and more than 100 letters of support. The proposal was also supported by the State of Maryland which offered an incentive package that is still unknown at this time.

The proposal is available at (Note: it will be online for a week)

BDC and Plank Industries officials said they are rooting for Montgomery County or Washington, D.C. to land HQ2. They said it would be a win for the region that could have positive impacts for Baltimore.

HQ2 rendering courtesy of Plank Industries (click to enlarge)

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