Ever since Amazon listed its 20-city shortlist in January, Delaware has been out of the running officially – but in reality, Northern Delaware was still in the game. That’s because Philadelphia was on the shortlist, and, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, Wilmington is in the greater Philadelphia area.
It brought up some interesting conversations about the advantages of Wilmington embracing its proximity to Philly (which, let’s be real, many Delawareans who work in Pennsylvania and Delaware companies who employ Pennsylvanians already do). After all, if a massive 50,000-jobs Amazon campus had come to Philly, it would inevitably mean jobs for Delawareans.
More than a year ago, Amazon asked cities across the nation to pitch their best reasons why they should be the home of the mythical second headquarters. Delaware’s pitch was on the realistic side: A lighthearted video produced by Short Order Production House showing why Delaware is a good choice for businesses – all businesses, not just Amazon, whose brand name was never even mentioned.
While cities like Stonecrest, Ga. offered to turn 345 acres into the Town of Amazon, and Birmingham, Ala. installed giant Amazon boxes around the city for a social media campaign, Delaware came out relatively dignified-looking, with a nice video that can still be used to court potential businesses.
Ultimately, HQ2 isn’t actually materializing the way they said it would. Instead of one golden-ticket winner, Amazon selected two markets in the D.C. and New York areas, with a promise of new facilities in other locations, including a major warehouse in Nashville, Tenn.
BTW, Delaware already has two Amazon distribution centers – one in New Castle that’s been in operation since the ’90s, and another in Middletown, which together employ about 4,000 people.
For many HQ2 watchers like The Open Market Institute, the split locations in already thriving cities has been described as no less than a “bait-and-switch” for economically struggling cities.
“Amazon demanded subsidies and terms from cities all over the country, demanded those terms be kept secret, then reneged on its promise to locate thousands of jobs,” said Barry Lynn, Executive Director of the Open Markets Institute, in a statement. “Amazon is now treating even the biggest of American cities with the same disrespect it shows for the suppliers and the merchants who depend on its website to reach customers.”
The truth is, the new Amazon locations will require a large talent pool of software developers that many cities simply don’t have. Wilmington has more dev jobs than qualified applicants, even with talent streaming from programs like Zip Code Wilmington, ITWorks, University of Delaware and Delaware Tech.
As Technical.ly Philly reporter Roberto Torres writes, the East Coast location of the twin HQ2 projects might mean more access to talent thanks to Amtrak’s Northeast corridor. One founder there is already thinking about the talent that could be lured away from Amazon to “more livable” Philly.
“There’s a shortage of tech talent in Delaware,” said Greg Plum, Director of Marketing for Brandywine Technology at World Trade Center Delaware’s DIW18 preview event on November 1. Erica Sayers, Talent & Acquisition Partner for CSC, agreed, during a conversation at DIW18 Dev Talks: “Finding senior developers is especially hard,” she said.
That means there wouldn’t have realistically been a lot of new jobs for Delaware’s existing talent pool even if Amazon had selected Greater Philly.
The good news for up-and-coming technologists in Delaware is that, with or without Amazon, there are a wealth of software developers jobs out there for those with the skills.
And don’t forget, the Port of Wilmington sealed that Gulftainer deal in September, which will bring thousands of new jobs to Delaware over the next decade, from labor to engineers to IT professionals. Unlike some “rejected” locations, it’s not a major blow for Delaware.