- As Amazon determines where it will locate its second headquarters, the University of Texas at Dallas and the city of Richardson are floating a proposal to offer the tech giant more than 100 acres of land near the university grounds, which they say will offer the additional benefit of a substantial number of STEM-proficient student, alumni and faculty, according to the Dallas Morning News.
- Amazon's second headquarters is expected to bring as many as 50,000 jobs to whichever city is chosen, and the state of Texas is working to create incentives to entice the company. UT Dallas president Richard Benson noted 90% of the school's students are in STEM or management programs.
- The city of Richardson also boasts a highly educated and diverse population, due to the university and the tech focus of the area. Mayor Paul Voelker says it is important to stress that diversity, as wherever Amazon places its second headquarters would need to be a place that could attract talent from around the globe.
Ensuring a city or region has a vital and skilled workforce can help school leaders of colleges and universities advocate for more funding from policymakers and philanthropists in an era of decaying sources of revenue. Educators often frame the development of STEM-literate students as a way to develop a workforce suited for today's economy, but well-funded and robust higher ed institutions can also be an economic engine in their own right, enticing businesses like Amazon from outside the state. The city of Pittsburgh, PA is undergoing a tech boom currently because of the proximity of several premier colleges and universities in the area. For school leaders negotiating with lawmakers about the need for higher allocations, this may be an easier argument than the promise of a strong future workforce because the benefits of bringing in a company like Amazon based on the reputation of a university is a more immediately discernible benefit for a state's economy.
The prospect of improving the local economy presents an ideal opportunity for higher ed institutions to partner with industries in order to entice more talent and businesses. A separate University of Texas initiative this year in San Antonio involved the university partnering with several tech companies and the local school district to create a high school specializing in workforce desired tech skills. Creating this type of environment is beneficial for both universities and businesses; the industry gets a continuous supply of skilled and interested graduates, while the proximity of such industries makes those higher ed institutions more attractive to ambitious student applicants.