Despite layoffs and reshuffling ongoing at large technology companies across the United States, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands said this week that the university’s expansion into Northern Virginia is still well-positioned for a planned 2024 opening.
E-commerce company Amazon is among the large technology businesses to downsize their workforces in recent months. After previously announcing a pause on construction plans for its HQ2 in Arlington, Amazon this week announced an additional 9,000 layoffs.
One of the reasons Amazon chose the Arlington site for its project was the collaboration with Virginia Tech and its Innovation Campus.
Sands spoke about tech-sector layoffs during his president’s report to the university’s board of visitors on Tuesday. Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus in Alexandria is continuing construction as scheduled, officials said previously.
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“I’d like to address concerns about Amazon’s recent decision to pause on the second phase of their HQ2 construction,” Sands said. “Their hiring remains robust, but utilization of space has changed since the pandemic.”
He said the companies experiencing those layoffs — Amazon, Google, Twitter and Facebook owner Meta among them — are generally right-sizing after a pandemic surge in hiring.
“There’s no immediate impact on the Innovation Campus, other than the likely slowdown of construction in National Landing,” said Sands, referring to the Amazon’s HQ2 location. “The larger issue of layoffs in the tech sector is also not necessarily a bad thing for the Innovation Campus.”
He said demand for tech talent remains robust.
“We have 1,000 applications for Masters of Engineering computer science and computer engineering for the fall at the Innovation Campus,” Sands said. “That number is likely to skyrocket, in part because when there are layoffs in the field, often people go back and upskill.”
Amazon’s agreements with the state of Virginia on its HQ2 are separate from those made by Virginia Tech in the development of its Innovation Campus, Sands said.
“It’s too early to say exactly how this all will play out,” Sands said. “It’s not just Amazon’s decision, but the bigger tech talent community. But I’m optimistic that we’re in the right place at the right time.”
He said the more challenging the environment, the higher Hokies fly.
“While I remain incredibly optimistic about Virginia Tech’s future, I recognize that we are in uncertain times,” Sands said. “The combination of high inflation, global unrest, concerns for our banking system, ever more powerful AI… and intense culture wars requires that we remain nimble, and that we focus on priorities and stick to our guiding principles.”