Comp-sci grads figure poorly in Colo. proposal
State and local economic development officials had asked developers and communities interested in hosting Amazon’s second headquarters to detail everything from the drive time to Denver International Airport to cellphone coverage and transit options.
They had also scrambled to prove that colleges and universities in the region could provide Amazon with enough business and computer science graduates for the up to 50,000 positions the company could seek — while, in the process, revealing a weak spot in the state’s pitch.
Those are some of the additional details found in nearly 600 pages of emails and reports that the Colorado Office of Economic Development released Monday night and Tuesday. They represented the second installment — the first was released last week — under an open-records request from The Denver Post and Denver7.
A matrix that the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. sent out to those interested in hosting the Amazon campus asked for the usual details such as location, square footage and room for future expansion. But it also requested maps of infrastructure, fiber connectivity, cellphone coverage, nearby transit options, and information on sustainability programs and the permitting process.
The sites offered were whittled down to the eight best options, which were presented in the final proposal, which was submitted to the Seattle e-commerce company Oct. 18.
The emails show a scramble to get statistics, with the help of economic modeling firm EMSI, on how many business and computer science graduates the region provides each year.
The number of people who completed a computer science program in the DenverBoulder area last year was only 453, the EMSI analysis showed. While it was a significant improvement from the 245 who did so in 2012, it showed the region would need to rely heavily on computer science graduates from elsewhere to supply Amazon.
And of those who graduate with a computer science degree in the Denver-Boulder area, only six were still in the state a
year later, the analysis found.
Colorado should have a much easier time offering business administration and management graduates, with 3,677 people completing programs in that field last year.
Another unknown is the dollar amount of incentives that the state and local governments offered Amazon, a question that Tricia Allen, a senior vice president with Adams County Economic Development, asked about in an email.
“We are using our typical calculation-based protocol to work on a series of theoretical hiring ramp-ups,” Rebecca Gillis, global business development manager with Colorado Office of Economic Development, told Allen. “I imagine we will end up providing the EDC (Economic Development Commission) with the most optimistic (but realistic) scenario when we approach them for incentive approval.”
Sam Bailey, the Metro Denver EDC’s point person in crafting the Amazon pro- posal, mentioned in one of his first emails that the Upshot section of The New York Times ranked metro Denver as a top pick for Amazon HQ2.
“If only it were as easy as a recommendation from The New York Times to land a deal,” he told partners.
Metro Denver had a hard time replicating that top score in the rankings that have followed, including one Tuesday from The Wall Street Journal, which placed Denver behind top pick Dallas, Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Chicago.
The proposal Colorado sent to Amazon will be released Thursday morning by the Metro Denver EDC. But it will be redacted, just as the emails were, to protect the list of preferred sites submitted to the company.
“Releasing confidential and proprietary information contained in the actual proposal impairs our ability to compete with other locations, puts in jeopardy Amazon’s ability to execute their own strategy if Colorado is selected, and is not in the public interest,” Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce president Kelly Brough informed her board.