Category Archives: Workforce

Three Workforce-Based Reasons Why Amazon Should Locate Its Second Headquarters In the Washington, D.C. Metro Area

C2ER and the LMI Institute are pleased to welcome this guest post from Lokesh Dani, a current graduate student at George Mason University in Arlington, VA.

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Amazon is looking for a second headquarters—HQ2. Many major metropolitan areas are preparing proposals now to host HQ2. Amazon’s decision will be a pragmatic one of matching its needs and preferences with the metropolitan area’s labor force, its infrastructure, its culture, and the attractiveness of the incentives the city offers. Most cities will accordingly seek to highlight their highly educated STEM workforce, their university system, their subways, highways, and airports, as well as their quality-of-life, and their culture of entrepreneurialism. Yet, the question of how well matched these features of an economy are to Amazon’s business activity, rather than any average technology-oriented company requires a more nuanced discussion.

Here I present three data-driven reasons why the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region is uniquely well matched to the needs of an Amazon headquarters based on the metro’s unique and specific occupation and industry mix.

  1. Meeting Amazon’s Specific Jobs Demand

An analysis of 5,948 job postings at Amazon Seattle’s headquarters since 2010 reveals that 42 percent of their job-demand was concentrated in software development activities. This was followed by 20 percent concentrating in management-related activities mostly covering project, program, and product management categories, including managerial activities relating to logistics and operations. The third largest concentration of demand was for engineering and R&D related work at 12 percent, followed by business development at 10 percent. The remainder of their jobs demand sought to staff their human resource needs, push their design innovations, and support their everyday activities, including addressing the regulatory and legal environment.

fig 1 amazon

Source: Author’s analysis of Amazon job postings and Bureau of Labor Statistics data

If the functions of HQ2 will mirror those of the Seattle headquarters then, for HQ2, Amazon will seek metropolitan areas that have a similar occupational mix as their expected demand. However, a common issue in matching demand with the regional supply of workers is that job categories, like workers’ skills and abilities, are amorphous and ever-evolving. This is visible in the plethora of job titles associated with related and similar types of work activities, such as the job titles of Programmer, Java Developer, and Software Developer. To get around this problem, I matched Amazon’s Seattle job postings to related occupational clusters in the Washington metro region and assessed the relative concentration of workers employed in these similar clusters.

The results show that for similar jobs as employed at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, the Washington metro region has 2.2 times the national concentration of workers in software development; 2.9 times the national concentration employed in similar managerial activities; 3.8 times the concentration of related engineering and R&D workers; and, 2.3 times the number of business development workers as compared to the national average. This analysis reveals not just that the Washington metro area has a high concentration of educated workers with STEM degrees, but that the region has competitive advantages in precisely the type of educated STEM workers that Amazon needs to staff its new headquarters.

2.  The Washington Metro Area’s Unique Industry Mix

To say that Amazon is a leader in cross-sector innovation would surprise no one. The technology giant may file under the NAICS code 454: “Nonstore retailers”, but the company’s business activities span well beyond the confines of any single NAICS sector, at any level of aggregation. To maintain its innovative lead and to satiate its demand for workers with breadth of knowledge and experience, Amazon hires from a diverse list of industries. It would then be useful to know what cluster of industries’ labor pool Amazon would most benefit from if it were to locate in the Washington metro area.

fig 2 amazon

Source: Author’s cluster analysis of QCEW data drawn as a network using Gephi 0.9.2

To investigate this regional characteristic, I have clustered all 3-digit NAICS industries in the Washington metro area based on the skill and task similarities of their most prominent occupations. This method reveals a ‘similarity’ of industries based on their potential for sharing occupational labor flows. What it shows is that nationally “Nonstore retailers” share an occupational similarity almost exclusively with other “Retail Trade activities”. In the Washington metro area this industry potentially shares labor flows with, “Professional, scientific, and technical services”; “Finance and Insurance”; and, the “Information services industries”. Compared with the composition of job postings of Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, the Washington metro area’s unique mix is well matched to keep the company at the frontier of innovation by attracting new workers with a wide set of diverse but related industry knowledge.

3. Regulating the Risks of Automation

Last year Mckinsey issued a report that assessed which jobs are most at risk of automation in the near future.[1] By evaluating work activities rather than job titles they reported that data collection, data processing and work requiring predictable physical tasks are the most susceptible to automation. Given Amazon’s primary industry activity in the retail sector, its data intensive technology, and its dominant market share, it is more-than-likely that the same technical advantage of automation that favored Amazon in disrupting an industry will ultimately present the company with substantial workforce challenges in the future. The only long-term option to automation is workforce retraining and upskilling in conjunction with an update of the regulatory infrastructure to support a digitized workforce. As the seat of the federal government and with one of the nation’s best education ecosystems, this is yet another competitive advantage of the Washington metro area that specifically benefits Amazon’s future growth and headquarters.

Conclusion

Having an Amazon headquarters locate in your city is a profitable opportunity. As Amazon notes in their RFP, “every dollar invested by Amazon in Seattle generates an additional $1.40 for the city’s economy overall.” The RFP further mentions that Amazon’s presence in Seattle has brought large positive innovation spillovers boosting the metro’s engineering and R&D capabilities. For a metro such as Washington, D.C. that has for some time sought to diversify its private sector away from federal dependence and re-brand itself an innovation hub, landing Amazon’s second headquarters would be a big win. Yet, the decision needs to also favor Amazon in a fashion that meets its current needs but also maintains its position at the frontier of innovation. The assessment summarized here provides support for such an argument by showing that the Washington metro area’s occupation mix and its industry mix provide unique opportunities well suited for the needs of an Amazon headquarters.

[1] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/where-machines-could-replace-humans-and-where-they-cant-yet

The Silicon Prairie

You don’t need a bay or a bridge to foster economic development within the technology industry.  What you do need are innovative entrepreneurs, savvy venture capitalists, and a talented workforce to put it all together as a service or product. Replacing the fog for storms, and exchanging the bay with expansive fields, there rests a burgeoning tech hub in Lincoln Nebraska.  Lincoln and the greater Great Plains area have been attracting significant investment and talent from the tech industry in recent years.  Specifically, the Omaha-Lincoln Nebraska region has experienced an influx of investment into software-application firms from 2011 onward.  The expense and pressure of starting a technology company in Silicon Valley may be pushing innovators and entrepreneurs elsewhere.  The pressures and dynamics of the valley aside, local municipalities and economic development coalitions have also fanned the flames of growth in Lincoln. The result has been the proliferation of tech start-ups in the region.

A more robust and accessible internet has made it far easier for entrepreneurs to navigate the obstacles that come with founding a tech start-up. Entrepreneurs and technologist workers alike are considering quality of life measurements and personal preferences more and more when it comes to establishing a new firm or finding a place to work and thrive.  This has led regional municipalities to work toward attracting nascent tech firms to their areas.  Austin, Des Moines, and Chicago are all in concert with Lincoln in proclaiming themselves a rising tech hub.  Although not front and center, economic development consortiums and public-private development co-ops are both stakeholders involved in Lincoln’s success in technology industry growth. With cheaper cost of living already built in, Lincoln simply needed to seize the opportunity present and provide the needed support to finalize tech firm migration into the county.

This development has brought plenty of opportunity for technology jobs. There has been over a 500% increase in the number of jobs within the software publishing industry in Lancaster County , the county in which Lincoln resides, over the past 5 years. Moreover, the average earnings per job is over $100 thousand annually (Source: Emsi 2017.2).  Private venture capitalists and publicly sponsored angel investment groups like the Nebraska Angels have nurtured young start-up firms like Hudl, a technology firm that provides video recording and editing software for athletes and coaches, and helped them lay a foundation in Lincoln.  Hudl is unique in that it was founded by Nebraska native, David Graff, who worked in the Athletics Department at the University of Nebraska.  Hudl was convinced to stay in Lincoln and is building a new $32 million headquarters after having secured $72.5 million in additional investments in 2015.  The new facility should add roughly 300 jobs to the area by 2018 and the average total annual compensation for employees at the Hudl headquarters will be roughly $60,000.

This sort of economic development is the result of investors working together with municipalities to finalize a valuable deal.  Although appraised at nearly $70 per square foot a few months prior, the land to be developed by Hudl was sold by Lincoln at half the price to ensure their commitmentMore recently, near Omaha, Facebook announced they will be building their next data center in Papillion, Nebraska after negotiating a deal with the Omaha Public Power District that will provide Facebook with the power they need while using renewable energy sources, which Facebook prefers.  This kind of flexibility by the local government is illustrative of what municipalities can do to attract new jobs and promote development.  Both cases required local entities to work toward the greater benefit of the region.  Paul and Stephanie Jarrett, founders of Bulu Box, the online health company that ships samples of health supplements, fled their 500-square foot apartment and headquarters in San Francisco to grow their business in Lincoln to take advantage of the cheaper capital and different kind of professional environment.  Bulu Box was originally just like the sea of young start-ups that reside in the Bay area.  That was until they received seed investment from the Nebraska Angels and the cleverly named Kansas based VC firm, Flyover Capital.

Silicon Valley could be discovering its own capacity for young technology firms and the willing appetites of economic regions abroad are finding ways to take advantage of this overload. Conventionally popular and expensive tech business incubators like San Francisco, Seattle and New York are leaking talent out to the rest of the country.  Local investors and economic development practitioners may mirror the steps taken by those in Lincoln, who have provided support that is customized to fit the needs of new businesses.  Of course, the most effective way the “Silicon Prairie” and Lincoln can continue to attract technology firms and workers from around the country is to rely on its most distinct advantage; it’s not in Silicon Valley.

 

 

 

Getting “Within WIOA” at the C2ER Conference and LMI Institute Forum

Akin to the spirit of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the 2016 C2ER Annual Conference and LMI Institute Forum bring together economic and workforce development practitioners to enable the development of data- and job-driven strategies that foster local and regional economic growth. At the Conference and Forum, you will have many opportunities to learn from peers from across the country about their experiences, lessons, and successes related to WIOA implementation.

Sector Strategies

WIOA requires states to develop, convene, or implement sector strategies. Collecting and analyzing relevant and reliable labor market and workforce information ensures that sector strategies are aligned with local needs for in-demand sectors and occupations. The “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – Part I: Targeting Industries” session will explore employer-driven partnerships between industry, educators, and other actors to address urgent workforce needs. This session will be moderated by Stephanie McGarrah, a Senior Strategy Consultant for the UNC Health Care System, and will feature Deidre Myers, President of The Myers Group, LLC, and Hillary Huffer, Labor Market Information Manager for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation.

In-Demand Occupations and Skills

Identifying in-demand occupations is at the foundation of WIOA, but pinpointing the skills required for those occupations is also of utmost importance to a dynamic and high-functioning workforce system. The “Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – Part II: Matching Skills and Jobs” session will examine both the demand and supply sides of this challenge by analyzing the perceived skills gap and reviewing research tips and techniques to determine whether industries truly have the skills they need. This session will be moderated by Lesley Hirsh, Director of the NYC Labor Market Information Service at the CUNY Graduate Center, Center for Urban Research, and will include experiences from Nebraska and Utah’s LMI offices.

Labor Market Information (LMI) and Program Evaluation

Another important aspect of WIOA is that it makes significant new demands for labor market information and economic evaluation, and therefore creates opportunities for researchers of all stripes to develop and extend capacities to support the public workforce system. During the “Data Tools Roundtable” session, you can engage in a dialogue to learn more about research needs and resources, as well as to brainstorm “entrepreneurial opportunities” for your organization to help provide data and analysis to local and state workforce boards. This session will be moderated by Adrienne Johnston, Director of the Bureau of Labor Market Statistics for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, and will feature Steve Hine, Research Director for the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.

This year’s C2ER Annual Conference and LMI Institute Forum focus on the global impact of regional partnerships, and managers from around the U.S. will gather to discuss topics facing industries, the economy, and the talent pool. We will take time during trainings to show trends in data-visualization software and discuss best practices. We invite you to visit the conference site and view the preliminary agenda to learn more.

Managers to Merge in Minneapolis: Who You’ll See at the 2016 C2ER Conference

This year’s Council for Community and Economic Research Conference (C2ER) and LMI Institute Forum is focused on the global impact of regional partnerships, and managers from around the U.S. will gather to discuss topics facing industries, the economy, and the talent pool.

The conference takes place June 6-10 in Minneapolis. Classes, presentations, and breakout sessions are designed to guide state, national, and regional-level managers that want to be better enabled to make positive impacts both at home and abroad. Frequently, the people we work with and speak come from organizations that either provide strategic international partnerships or are growing their own understanding about globalization’s regional affects on their daily business.

The fundamental reality is that promoting an active global perspective among labor-supply specialists, economic developers, and researchers is essential to developing sustainable regional partnerships. Globally focused relationships and mindsets give leaders the foundations needed for international collaboration that addresses the greatest challenges in producing jobs and improving workforce quality.

C2ER and the LMI Institute, Leaders in the Field:

For 56 years, C2ER and the LMI Institute have brought together chamber leaders, administrators at government agencies and universities, data and labor-market experts, administrators at economic-development and utility firms, and consulting directors. Economic researchers and labor market specialists have added value to their state and municipal agencies after attending the event. We invite you to visit our event site and view the preliminary agenda to learn more.

Addressing the Skills Gap Starts in Your Own Office

NP Employees

A survey from the Chronicle of Higher Education shows that government and nonprofit employers have a more-difficult time with recent-graduate hires. Most of the issues cited involve “soft skills.”

Of the 700 employers in the survey who offered feedback on specific troubles they experienced with recent grads, most mentioned communication and critical thinking. Specifically, the employers stated that they often find candidates who cannot put ideas forward, support those concepts, and build upon them. “Soft skills” don’t just stop with communication and critical thinking. They include collaboration and respect for diversity. All too often, these people skills are becoming the value-add for new hires.

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WIC Skills Initiative Summary Report Release

The Labor Market Information (LMI) Institute is excited to release the Workforce Information Council’s (WIC) Skills Initiative Summary Report. This report is the culminating piece of the WIC Skills Initiative, a study group created to engage federal representatives, state labor market information (LMI) directors, and other stakeholders from public policy and higher education in a dialogue around skills. The Initiative’s ultimate goal is to provide a baseline understanding of how various stakeholders perceive the concept of “skills,” and to identify and disseminate best practices in the provision of skills data. A more comprehensive understanding of skills data is especially important given recent legislation in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which calls for data-driven decision-making around the development of skills and workplace readiness.

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