Amazon on Monday said it plans to grow its Vancouver research and development office to 5,000 employees after a new office building is completed in 2022, the retailer's second expansion in the city announced in the last six months.
Amazon plans to turn its Vancouver, B.C., outpost into one of the retail giant’s largest research and development centers.
The Seattle company on Monday announced its second expansion in Vancouver in six months, disclosing plans to occupy a third of a massive new downtown redevelopment of a former post office building.
When that development opens in 2022, Amazon says it will have space in the city for 5,000 workers, which would cement the retailer’s place among the province’s largest employers.
The announcement is the latest in a handful of major satellite office expansions Amazon has announced, even as executives are still deciding in which region, among 20 finalists, the company will place its second headquarters campus. Vancouver applied, but was not among the finalists for the project, which Amazon says it hopes to staff with 50,000 people.
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Amazon’s expansion is another vote of confidence in Vancouver’s growing technology scene, which has been bolstered by Canada’s relatively open guest-worker laws and its proximity to technology giants in the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Seattle.
Amazon, which employs more than 1,000 people in Vancouver, in November announced a lease that, from 2020, would give the company space for a total of 2,000 workers. The deal disclosed on Monday gives Amazon room for 3,000 more in 416,000 square feet of an office complex called the Post by its developer, QuadReal.
“We chose to build and grow in Canada because we recognize the diverse and exceptionally talented workforce here,” Jesse Dougherty, Amazon’s site lead in Vancouver, said at an event on Monday with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
For Amazon and other tech giants, much of Vancouver’s appeal is in the quality of the workforce it can bring there from out of the country.
Microsoft, which opened a research and development office in the area in 2007 amid frustration with caps on U.S. visas for highly skilled workers, in 2016 moved into a new downtown office it has since filled with more than 800 employees. That project was contingent on a deal with provincial and federal Canadian officials for an easier approval process for guest-worker permits for Microsoft’s chosen candidates from abroad.
The federal government last year used that agreement as a model for a pilot program, part of its Global Skills Strategy, that allows fast-growing firms to get guest visas for skilled workers from abroad within two weeks. Even before President Donald Trump ordered increased scrutiny of the U.S. immigration regimen, bringing guest workers into Canada was far cheaper and quicker than comparable U.S. processes.
Adding to Vancouver’s appeal for cost-conscious technology giants: relatively low wages. In documents included with Vancouver’s HQ2 proposal, the authors noted that the city had “the lowest wages of all North American tech hubs.”
Information in this article, originally published April 30, 2018, was corrected April 30, 2018. A previous version misstated the number of employees Amazon expected to add as a result of the expansion announced in November.