RALEIGH – Dr. Stephen Scott, president of Wake Tech Community college and someone who has been deeply involved in economic development packages for years, believes that the Triangle can not only win the Amazon HQ2 project but also an Apple expansion that could produce 10,000 jobs.

“I think we are in the top 5 for Amazon and when it comes down to who will be the winner, we will be in the top one or two,” Scott said in an interview Thursday afternoon.

“In my playbook,” he added with confidence, “I can see us getting both.”

Amazon HQ2 finalists

Scott concedes that “the DC area is a really tough competitor” for both high-tech projects. “Maybe more so for Amazon,” he added, noting that three of the company’s declared 20 finalist metro ares are very close to the nation’s capital.

“In my opinion, the three sites are really only one – like the Triangle,” Scott explained, noting the geographical locations “that put them within about 40 miles of each other.” He pointed out that a similar footprint for North Carolina’s bid would cover an area from Hillsborough to Smithfield.

But Scott gave higher marks to the Triangle than other sites such as Atlanta and Austin, Texas, ranging from traffic to ability to attract talent.

“I’ve seen a lot of things come and go,” he said. “I believe this is our time. Will it happen? Who knows.”

Scott, who recently announced plans to retire after working more than four decades at community colleges, would “neither confirm nor deny” that he has been placed under a non disclosure agreement with either the Amazon or Apple projects. Nor would he talk about anything specifically linked to either company’s plans.

How important is education to Amazon? Charlotte Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Morgan said Thursday that its lack of higher education hurt the Queen City’s bid.  “We do not have the level of higher education in the Charlotte market that you see in the Triangle” and other communities among Amazon’s 20 finalists, he said, according to The News and Observer.

The North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Research Triangle Regional Partnership along with a team of business, government and educational leaders have spearheaded the Triangle region’s negotiations for Amazon and the promised 50,000 jobs. Citing the NDAs, however, officials have been extremely reluctant to say anything about the Amazon project.

Little also has been said about Apple.

Sources tell WRAL that Amazon executives recently visited the Triangle as the Internet giant’s executives review proposals. A decision is expected sometime this year.

Apple, meanwhile, has had very little to say about its project with CEO Tim Cook (a Duke University graduate) saying Apple was taking a different approach that Amazon’s plan to put out a request for proposal (RFP) and then begin actively pitting sites against each other.

Why the Triangle?

Scott did talk at length about why he believes the Triangle can win, citing three key points:

  • Education
  • Workforce training
  • Ability to recruit talent

“I am sold on the Triangle as a base for any knowledge-based company, Apple or Amazon,” he said. “These are knowledge-based jobs.

“I know the Triangle and where we stand. We do very well in education. We have top-flight talent, a top education system, and we are able to attract talent.”

Amazon and Apple have talked about needing engineers to fill posts at the planned expansions. Scott noted the availability of high-tech skilled students graduating from Triangle universities as well as Wake Tech. The community college has been actively involved in other economic expansions where employers expanding to or growing in the Triangle have stressed the need to recruit and train workers.

Scott acknowledges openly that he’s a “cheerleader for the Triangle.” And he’s made the points about talent before.

In an interview with TechWire on Jan. 19, Scott declared “NC recruiters do play up the quality of our workforce. That’s one of our region’s great strengths!”