Comp-sci grads fig­ure poorly in Colo. pro­posal

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Aldo Svaldi and Ta­mara Chuang

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.

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