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TEXAS VIEW: Amazon turned us down. Now, we’re getting ready - Odessa American: Texas Opinion

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TEXAS VIEW: Amazon turned us down. Now, we’re getting ready

THE POINT: Having a well-trained and ready workforce means the next time we will be ready.

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Posted: Friday, October 4, 2019 2:30 am

When Dallas lost out on its bid to become at least half of Amazon’s HQ2, it represented a setback for the region, but it also created an opportunity.

We could learn from what we lacked and prepare for a future where the world’s biggest and most dynamic companies cannot afford to say no to what our city and our region have to offer.

Dallas has learned this lesson before. When Boeing selected Chicago over us in 2001, it marked a moment when Dallas had to face the fact that it didn’t have the cultural amenities nor the vibrant downtown that Chicago offered.

Look at us since then. Downtown is transformed. People populate its streets night and day. Gorgeous new parks have bloomed from parking lots. The Arts District is among the finest in any city in America. We answered the challenge.

The challenge presented by Amazon’s rejection was different, and in certain ways, more daunting.

Despite our wealth and growth, we simply do not have the workforce that major technology companies need. The truth is most cities off the coasts, absent our own capital, don’t have that either.

Part of the pitch our region made when we were courting Amazon was to build an “Amazon University” with the support of local colleges. The idea was to work together to ensure that we could grow, right here, the sort of tech talent that Amazon needs.

When we lost out on the deal, a page at tinyurl.com/yyw65vxq urged local leaders to build it anyway.

“Dallas didn’t win this fight, but that doesn’t mean the city should accept defeat. As the nation advances technologically, more companies requiring tech employees will emerge. It gets a lot of attention when a company promises 50,000 jobs. But when 10 employers bring 5,000 jobs each, the benefit is the same. Why not do the work to encourage all of them to move here,” we asked.

Well, that hasn’t quite happened yet, but Dallas and the state have taken a valuable step forward.

As reporter Melissa Repko wrote last week, community colleges in Dallas County and elsewhere in Texas will work with Amazon Web Services to create a new degree program that will prepare students for careers in cloud computing.

Joe May, chancellor of the Dallas County Community College District, deserves credit once again for a forward-thinking effort about getting Dallas students the job skills they need as early as possible in their lives and at a price that will not cripple them with debt.

DCCCD will join 22 other community colleges next year in offering a two-year cloud computing degree. As Repko reports, the skills taught to get that degree can lead to well-paying jobs that stand the chance of lifting young people from Dallas ISD and other ISDs out of poverty.

What’s more, having a well-trained and ready workforce means the next time Amazon or another major tech company comes knocking, we will be ready.

Odessa, TX

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