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‘Longshot’ Amazon Project Would Drive Enrollment, Retain Graduates in Region, Officials Say

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Andrew Kennedy, president for the Center of Economic Growth, believes the University at Albany would experience an uptick in out-of-area students along with greater alumni numbers in the region should Amazon build a $5 billion site nearby.

The CEG last month made a $100,000 pitch for the online retail giant to build a second headquarters in Downtown Albany and Rensselaer, home of two UAlbany campuses. The Capital Region pitch — considered a pipe dream from critics — is one of 238 proposals across the country made to Amazon.

If approved, Amazon would generate 50,000 jobs in the Capital Region through tax incentives. Such employment opportunities could attract more UAlbany students to remain in the area after graduation, Kennedy said.

“Having a big company like this gives them that sort of stable environment which could help retain our college educated students that come here,” said Kennedy.

Robert Spahn, a Long Island native and graduate student, would be interested living almost anywhere in the region with a second Amazon headquarters. Expecting to take a master’s degree in math come May, Spahn has been eager to apply for employment at the online retailer’s Buffalo sortation center.

“It would be easier in terms of travel and opportunities,” he said. “I don’t want to move to Seattle.”

Spahn is one of 3,253 in-state graduate students this fall. Overall numbers indicate that 816 international students and 166 out-of-state students are enrolled in a graduate program at UAlbany. Out of 13,508 undergraduates, four percent of students are from out-of-state and five percent are international.

Should Amazon choose the Capital Region to build a second headquarters, Matt Grattan, UAlbany director of Community & Economic Development, said out-of-state and international numbers could be impacted by such a project.

“I think a lot of it is a combination of ‘Do you have the academic programs and do you have the right mix of industry that can employ the student after graduation in your area?’” he said.

For STEM demands, emerging schools like the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity, he believes, make a difference in CEG’s proposal.

While proposals are processed, some have poked fun at Albany’s pitch. The Onion, a satirical publication, recently published an article titled “Jeff Bezos’ Heart Breaks A Little Reading Albany’s Amazon Headquarters Pitch.”

Byoung Park, a UAlbany assistant professor in econometrics, considers the possibility of a second Amazon headquarters in the Capital Region unlikely. The cold climate and lack of an large urban center, he explained, could risk high talent applicants looking elsewhere.

“It’s much of a longshot,” said Park.

Other proposals in the state include a joint Buffalo-Rochester bid, a Westchester County bid, a Long Island bid, and a New York City bid.

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Tyler A. McNeil is the current managing editor for the Albany Student Press. The Capital Region native previously served as managing editor for The Hudsonian, and as an intern for the Times Union and Capital Tonight.

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