Amazon slam? Among HQ2 finalists, Dallas-Fort Worth ranks next to last in college-educated millennials
Mitchell Schnurman, Business columnist, Dallas Morning News, 02-16-18
By some measures, higher education is Dallas’ great weakness in the Amazon sweepstakes.
The region still doesn’t have a true Tier One research university, which is a staple in most major metro areas. It’s also a laggard in educational attainment.
Just over 1 in 3 millennials in North Texas have a college degree, which ranks next to last among the metros selected as finalists for Amazon’s next headquarters.
On the outside were Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth (47th) and Miami.
Fortunately for Dallas, other trends paint a stronger picture of higher education here. The region is producing many more college graduates, especially in technology. And Dallas has become a top magnet for educated workers, thanks to a strong economy and affordable cost of living.
The region's growth rate outpaced the nation's and many rival metros. Atlanta, for instance, added almost 59,000 college-educated millennials in the last decade. D-FW added twice as many over the same period, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.“What Dallas has working in its favor is the ability to attract talent from outside the region,”
said Colin Yasukochi, director of research and analysis for CBRE, which produces an annual report on tech talent in North America.
In the 2017 report, D-FW ranked second for “brain gain,” behind only the San Francisco Bay area. That metric is the difference between the number of tech degrees awarded and tech jobs created.Among the finalists for Amazon HQ2, Dallas led with a brain gain of over 22,000. Boston and Washington, which are leaders in college degrees, lost thousands of graduates to other cities.
Yasukochi wouldn’t discuss specific companies, including Amazon, but said this trend can be argued two ways. Boston can say that it has ample talent for growing companies, and Dallas can point to its record of producing more graduates and pulling in outsiders.“You don’t have to educate all the talent that companies are seeking to hire,” Yasukochi said. “If you have an environment that attracts people to move to your area, that can be a tremendous advantage.”
But the total number of such workers, not just percentages, make a difference, too. That’s particularly true with HQ2 because it’s hiring so many.
In 2016, D-FW had almost 377,000 millennials with a college degree. That’s far more than Raleigh (91,000), Austin (163,000) and Columbus (129,000).
Dallas has a similar size advantage on specific tech jobs. It has twice as many application software developers as Austin and three times more than Raleigh, according to Joshua Wright of Emsi.
But Dallas has some underappreciated strengths, especially in diversity
, said Frey of the Brookings Institution. In a separate report, he examined where millennials were gathering.
From 2010 to 2015, Dallas ranked among the leading metros in attracting young adults who were black (41,000), white (32,000) and Asian (27,000). He believes that Amazon will emphasize diversity in the HQ2 decision and that Dallas can make a compelling case.
“It’s a big, growing, diverse city that’s attracting a lot of millennials, and it’s improving on educational attainment,” Frey said.
Landing Amazon would accelerate advances in education because the company would invest money and effort into improving the community.
“Dallas already has a good profile, and Amazon would make it even better," he said.