Amazon embarks on listening tours across Va.

Amazon embarks on listening tours across Va.
Much of the conversation was directed toward education and workforce development.

Amazon officials got a tour of southwestern Virginia on Monday, conducting a listening session with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, regional lawmakers, and local community leaders before mounting ATVs to explore the nearby Spearhead Trails off-road network.

Ardine Williams, Amazon’s vice president of workforce development, said the listening session is just one of “lots” to be held around Virginia’s different regions. Williams, Brian Moore, Amazon’s senior manager for public policy, and Laurie Tyson, manager of public policy for Amazon’s Web Services, didn’t speak much but took notes during the meeting.

The conversation, which also included members of Northam’s cabinet and staff, functioned both as victory lap and a way to showcase southwestern Virginia as an investment opportunity and potential source of employees in the future, whether they emigrate to Northern Virginia or work remotely.

In a news release, Northam said Amazon’s investment in Virginia, including its new $2.5 billion headquarters Northern Virginia, “can benefit every part of the state. Southwest Virginia has strong communities, a skilled workforce and visionary leadership, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to discuss with local leaders how we can attract more jobs and investment to this important region.”

Much of the conversation was directed toward education and workforce development, as part of Virginia’s commitment to produce 25,000 to 35,000 new graduates with degrees in computer science and related fields over the next two decades.