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Executives: Amazon Big for D.C. Region

Five business leaders touted Amazon’s choice of Northern Virginia as one of two locations for its newest headquarters as a “potential game-changer.”

The online company’s plan to invest $2.5 billion and more than 25,000 jobs to Arlington County will boost the entire Washington metropolitan area.

“It is a fantastic moment for our region,” said Monumental Sports and Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis on Thursday, Nov. 15. “When one wins, we all win.”

Leonsis joined four other executives to tout how Amazon’s influence will spur the region during a conference call organized by the Greater Washington Partnership, a group of chief executives in the region that includes Leonsis.

For instance, Virginia Tech University announced last week it will build a $1 billion campus in Alexandria as an expansion in technology education.

The location about two miles from the Amazon location in Crystal City would increase undergraduate enrollment up to 30,000 students, according to the Virginia Tech proposal. The 1 million-square-foot campus proposes space for student housing, retail and startup companies.

George Mason University also plans to expand its Arlington campus and pledged $250 million over the next five years to grow its computing programs. In addition, the state’s largest school with more 5,000 students enrolled in those programs could triple registration to 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students by 2024.

“Virginia Tech and George Mason [are] two of the most important universities in the commonwealth producing these computer science and other degrees,” said Russ Ramsey, chair of the Greater Washington Partnership and CEO of an asset management company in Reston, Virginia. “It was obviously the place where the commonwealth wanted to invest and be able to provide more robust pipeline … for other companies that want to grow here.”

One major obstacle that must be addressed is transportation. The partnership plans to release a “Blueprint for Regional Mobility” this month on transportation as a way to expand the region such as connecting Baltimore to Richmond.

“It’s an absolutely critical set of investments that need to be made … to be a well-functioning region for all,” said partnership CEO Jason Miller. “It’s about continuing improvements in the public transportation system.”

Officials in neighboring jurisdictions seek to entice their students and residents to become a part of Amazon’s workforce, as well as ensuring those in underserved communities receive chances either to receive training in digital certification, computer science and other related fields.

“We’re having the same conversation in Prince George’s County and we would be delighted to join you in creating this regional landscape and how we can exactly get more opportunities for our young people,” said David Harrington, president and CEO of the county’s Chamber of Commerce.

In terms of housing in one of the most expensive markets in the nation, Miller said his organization partnered with the Urban Institute to assess housing needs in the D.C. region.

According to the partnership’s framework, the goal will be to present solutions based on preserving, producing and protecting current and future housing.

“This is absolutely an achievable challenge that existed prior to Amazon coming,” Miller said. “Frankly, I think Amazon’s expansion in the region is a catalyst to us taking this on.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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