Amazon seeks educated workforce: Brookings says that isn’t an Atlanta strength

By David Pendered

Metro Atlanta’s prospects for winning Amazon’s second headquarters may have been dinged by a report from the Brookings Institution that highlighted the region’s comparative scarcity of college-educated millennials. Baltimore officials think their city may have lost out for that very reason.

Streets Alive

As Amazon considers metro Atlanta for the site of its second headquarters, one factor that may come into play is the relative scarcity of college-educated millennials, a group that’s attracted to Atlanta Streets Alive. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Unlike Atlanta, Baltimore didn’t make Amazon’s list of 20 cities that remain contenders for its HQ2. Amazon hinted that Baltimore’s labor force may have been a concern, according to a Feb. 14 report by WBAL-TV that quoted Bill Cole, president of the Baltimore Development Corp.:

  • “What we have heard repeatedly from them both in our exit call is that they are looking for a place that is tech-talent ready to go on day one. … They never said that specifically in our call. What they said was, ‘You need to keep doing what you are doing to grow tech talent, focusing on STEM education, keep working with Johns Hopkins (University) to endure. You have tech talent in the region.'”

The role in Amazon’s decision of Baltimore’s crime rate – the highest per capita murder rate in the country, according to a Feb. 19 report by – is unknown, Cole said: “They just went right around that question,” he told WBAL-TV.

The Brookings report, released Feb. 7, sought to address the question posed in the title of the report: Where do the most educated millennials live? Are they living in the Amazon HQ2 finalist places?

Metro Atlanta ranked 12th out of the 16 metro regions that made Amazon’s shortlist and are ranked among Brookings’ 100 largest metro areas with the highest and lowest percentages of college graduates among the millennial generation – defined as 25 years to 34 years of age.

The report determined that 39 percent of metro Atlanta residents in this age group have been graduated from college.

The top five regions, in terms of the proportion of college graduates, that made Amazon’s Top 20 list are:

street scene

Atlanta is a mecca for millennials. Now the question is whether enough of them have the skills and education to help prompt Amazon to build its second headquarters in the region, according to a report by the Brookings Institution. Credit: Kelly Jordan

  • Boston – 58.5 percent;
  • Washington – 53.6 percent;
  • New York – 47.5 percent;
  • Raleigh – 47.2 percent;
  • Minneapolis – 46.9 percent.

The regions that ranked below metro Atlanta and still made Amazon’s list are:

  • Indianapolis – 36.4 percent;
  • Los Angeles – 34.8 percent;
  • Dallas – 34.8 percent;
  • Miami – 32.2 percent.

Although educational attainment is a factor for Amazon, the author of the Brookings report reminds that education is just one of many factors Amazon is considering. The company provided its wish list in its request for proposals.

For instance, Baltimore is ranked 18th on the proportion of college graduates who are millennials, at 42.5 percent. That compares to 27th-ranked metro Atlanta, with its 39 percent college graduation rate.

As the report’s author, William Frey, a senior fellow in Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program, observed:

  • “[W]hile millennial education was likely an important element in the consideration of Amazon HQ2 finalists, an examination of these locales suggests it was not the only condition for their advancement in the competition. …

    william frey

    William Frey

  • “Clearly, the Amazon finalists are skewed toward places with very high concentrations of college graduate millennials. However, other such places were passed over, presumably in the quest for different qualities.”

At this point, a report by CNBC weighs in on another area where metro Atlanta may be dinged – acceptance of diversity. The story that posted Feb. 23 puts it right there in the first paragraph:

  • “Georgia’s Senate passed a bill Friday that won’t necessarily help Atlanta’s chances of landing Amazon HQ2, the second North American headquarters for the technology giant that 20 metro areas are vying for with a decision expected from Amazon by year end.”

The story referred to Senate Bill 375, titled the, Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act. The bill authorizes taxpayer funded adoption agencies to decline referrals on the grounds of, “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The story observes that advocates say the measure aims to encourage adoption agencies to open in Georgia. The story quotes GLAAD’s president and CEO, Sarah Kate Ellis, who criticized the legislation in a statement:

  • “This bill is not about freedom of religion, which is one of our nation’s fundamental values, but rather about imposing one’s personal religious beliefs on others to discriminate against loving foster or adoptive parents simply because of their identity and deny services to LGBTQ youth.”

The House had not referred the bill to committee as of midday Monday.


amazon hq2, map

Amazon included metro Atlanta on the short list its released of 20 metro areas it is considering for its second headquarters. File/Credit:


Runners, variety

Atlanta offers a plethora of events attractive to millennials, who are the target workforce of Amazon as it considers metro Atlanta as a potential location for its second headquarters. Credit: Kelly Jordan


piedmont park

A report by the Brookings Institution raises the question of whether metro Atlanta has enough millennials with college degrees to entice Amazon to build its second headquarters in the region. Credit: Kelly Jordan


David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

3 replies
  1. Dana Blankenhorn says:

    Those interested in the political status quo, both within Atlanta and in Georgia, are quietly opposed to Amazon moving here. Cagle just brought that out into the open.

    You have 50,000 skilled people in a headquarters complex in the south side of Atlanta and you upset a lot of political applecarts. Atlanta leaders are upset the city might become majority white. Republican leaders are upset the state might become Democratic.

    No one will admit to these concerns, but you’re not seeing a lot of enthusiasm, just politicians and real estate agents favoring their own interests and ignoring Amazon’s stated goals.Report

    • Sibyl Masquelier says:

      Agreed. Cagle has just ka-booshed big business in Georgia with his partisan bullying. We could lose Delta to Cincinnati. Nice move, Slick. Now I have to work to help someone defeat himReport


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