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Winning Amazon's HQ2 Will Require Prime Tech Talent

As the deadline for Amazon's HQ2 request for proposals draws near, cities continue to pull out all the stops in an attempt to win the bid for the tech giant’s second headquarters.


With Amazon promising to bring an estimated 50,000 jobs to the city of its choosing, it is easy to understand why local governments across the country are putting their best foot forward.

One element that remains at the top of the list is the presence of tech talent.

"They need 50,000 [people], so 5,000 per year and they’ll still lose people per year [due to turnover]. So they’re looking at a lot of influx from other cities, which means there has to be a good locational attractiveness," Newmark Knight Frank Managing Director of Consulting Rajeev Thakur said.

Here are the top contenders in the U.S. based on tech talent, according to a Newmark Knight Frank report.

First-Tier Markets


San Francisco Bay Area

The San Francisco Bay Area is among the top hubs for tech companies, startups and universities. These factors also mean it receives a large amount of technology-focused venture capital, but while that may be a draw for talent, competition and high costs of living are making it difficult for both employees and companies to remain in the region.

New York City

New York City is home to plenty of software development and technology consulting companies, and receives an estimated 10% of technology-focused venture capital, according to NKF. Although it is not quite as well-known for its full-stack development, there is plenty of talent to be found here. 


With tech giants, including Microsoft and Amazon, making their home here and housing prices that are considerably more affordable than the Bay Area, Seattle is a promising region for talent and technology growth. 


In addition to the Pentagon, CIA, NSA and FBI being situated here, the suburbs of Washington, D.C., host a number of tech companies specializing in government and defense contracting. These factors attract a highly specialized talent pool.

"D.C. has a huge tech market. It has all the characteristics that they have in Seattle. This market has something to offer to Amazon and a lot of things align," Thakur said. 


Though Boston is home to fewer tech companies, it does have the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, making it one of the most innovative regions in the country thanks to its large and prestigious research labs. 

Second-Tier Markets

The Austin skyline


The startup culture in Austin is significant and attracting talent such as software engineers has become relatively commonplace, but scaling is an issue in the area because of quickly rising competition. 


There is no question Dallas is home to more oil, gas and finance companies than startups, but with all the corporate IT positions, the area still manages to attract plenty of software engineers.


Atlanta boasts a large number of Fortune 500 companies along with a bustling airport, affordable cost of living and a diverse set of job opportunities. Georgia Tech, which has a prominent engineering school, is also in the city.

Los Angeles

While Los Angeles is better known for celebrity glitz and glamour than its tech market, the area is home to a number of universities and a young demographic, which means it has plenty of potential for growth in the tech sector.

Third-Tier Markets

The Downtown Chicago skyline


Chicago has not yet developed into a tech hub but the presence of universities such as the University of Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame and Wisconsin make it a prime target for growth, opportunity and therefore, talent. 

"Considering there are so many schools within 150 miles of Chicago, people don’t go to Chicago enough, but Chicago has all the ingredients. It has everything you need for a good ecosystem," Thakur said.

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City offers a pro-business environment and high quality of life, a feature that has proven to be attractive to the millennial demographic as well as many startup tech firms.


Portland, Oregon, is quietly moving in the direction of becoming a hub of innovation with focuses on the Internet of Things and wearable technology. As startups have been increasingly forced out of the Bay Area because of soaring costs, they, along with their talent, are turning to Portland for refuge. Apple, Google and Twitter all have offices in the region.


Denver-Boulder already hosts companies including Comcast, Oracle and Lockheed Martin. Its ability to offer a desirable outdoor lifestyle to young professionals could make it an appealing option to startups as well. 

Related Topics: Amazon, Amazon HQ2, Amazon HQ2 RFP