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Amazon Says Charlotte Falls Short On Tech Talent

In October, Charlotte Area Transit System added slogans to buses saying "Hey Amazon! #CLTisPrime"
David Boraks
In October, Charlotte Area Transit System added slogans to buses saying "Hey Amazon! #CLTisPrime"

Amazon has given local business recruiters a bit of feedback on why Charlotte didn't make the list of 20 finalists for the company's planned $5 billion second headquarters. One key reason: a shortage of tech talent. 

Amazon said the city's pool of technology workers is lacking compared to other markets. That's from a sort of post-mortem report on the bid from the Charlotte Regional Partnership, which helped lead Charlotte's sales pitch.  It's the first hint of what went into Amazon's decision - the company isn't speaking publicly.

A 2017 study by real estate firm CBRE estimated that Charlotte has about 50,000 technology workers. But that's less than half the average of 105,000 at cities that made the cut, according to the analysis by the partnership.

Reporter Ashley Fahey is with the Charlotte Business Journal.  She spoke on WFAE's Charlotte Talks Tuesday.

"I think they want the assurance that not only do we have the existing tech workers, but we have universities that could supply that talent," she said.

The report says the city ranks low in the number of tech degrees awarded, though it doesn't specifically mention the lack of a top-flight university. That's a key factor, says economist Fred Smith of Davidson College, who also spoke on Charlotte Talks Tuesday. 

"I really thought that that was going to hurt our chances. And unfortunately, I do think that that played a big role," Smith said. 

Raleigh did make the cut. With 60,000 tech workers, it's also at the lower end of the finalists. But Smith says it benefits from the presence of Duke University, UNC Chapel Hill and NC State.

An Amazon representative praised the city's recruiting presentation for its "creativity and diversity," according to the report.  Charlotte also got a favorable review for its airport and transportation system.

Nobody from Charlotte Regional Partnership was immediately available for an interview Tuesday.  


Read the Charlotte Regional Partnership report on Amazon's feedback (PDF)

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.