Virginia Tech’s Promise To Build A New Campus Helped Seal Amazon’s Virginia Headquarters Deal

Rendering of the planned Virginia Tech Innovation Campus in Crystal City.Courtesy Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech announced today that its promise to build a $1 billion campus in northern Virginia played a role in Amazon’s decision to locate one of its two new corporate outposts in Arlington’s Crystal City development. The state, county and city governments worked with Amazon for more than a year on the proposal, which helped persuade the company to choose Crystal City along with Long Island City in Queens for one of its two new locations, known as HQ2. The Washington, D.C., area is not known for universities that produce large numbers of graduates with technology degrees.

The so-called Innovation Campus will be in a newly branded neighborhood called National Landing that spans Crystal City in Arlington and an area called Potomac Yard in Alexandria. It will include 1 million square feet across 150 acres and will involve both the rehabbing of vacant buildings and new construction.

“This is a watershed moment for Virginia Tech and a great day for the commonwealth that we are committed to serve,” said university president Tim Sands. “As a land-grant research institution, we knew we needed to claim our role of driving economic development in Virginia.”

The new campus will be devoted to graduate studies. The plan is for the campus to host a total of 500 master’s degree students within five years, eventually expanding to 750 master’s candidates in addition to hundreds of doctoral students. The first 100 master’s students will start studying in temporary space next year.

Degree programs and research will focus on computer science and software engineering, including specializations in data science, analytics, security, the internet of things, and technology and policy. The campus will provide space for academics, research, and what Virginia Tech is calling “innovation,” in addition to housing. It will also encourage industry to form partnerships with students and faculty on campus.

Thus far, the state of Virginia and Virginia Tech have committed $250 million to seed the project. The remaining $750 million has yet to be raised. According to Virginia Tech’s announcement, funding will come from private philanthropy, industry partnerships, “and the creation of other revenue streams by leveraging the innovative shared spaces of the campus plan.”

Virginia Tech already has a partnership, struck three years ago, with San Diego-based semiconductor and telecommunications equipment maker Qualcomm. The Thinkabit Lab in Falls Church runs programs for K-12 students and teachers, mostly from underrepresented communities in the D.C. area, who work on science, technology engineering and math projects. “There is a critical need to increase Virginia’s pipeline of STEM graduates,” said Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf about the new Virginia Tech campus.

Based in Blacksburg, 260 miles from Arlington, Virginia Tech is No. 110 on Forbes’ list of top colleges. Established in 1872, it ranks No. 20 among public universities. The school’s Corporate Research Center, which houses more than 180 companies near the main campus, is a for-profit private subsidiary of the Virginia Tech Foundation.

More than 200 communities across the country competed to win one of the new Amazon HQ2 sites. Together they will create 50,000 jobs.


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