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Does Durham have what it takes?

UOIT prof unsure if Durham can handle Amazon HQ

With the bids narrowed down, Durham remains in the running to be the new home for Amazon’s second headquarters. However, some shortcomings, like transit, may hurt Durham’s chances.

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

Although Durham Region, as part of a Toronto-wide bid, remains in the running to land Amazon’s ambitious HQ2, a UOIT professor isn’t banking on it.

Dr. Karthik Sankaranarayanan, assistant professor of operations management at UOIT’s Faculty of Business and IT, believes there are a few factors that hurt the odds of the $5 billion facility, and a promised 50,000 “high-paying jobs” as part of the package, coming to Durham.

“I am a bit concerned about the region’s infrastructure – mainly in terms of transportation,” Sankaranarayanan says.

While he acknowledges transportation is expanding across Durham, he doesn’t believe it is sufficient to meet the demands and expectations from Amazon.

“From personal experience getting from a location in Oshawa to another [part of the region], it was frustrating,” he says. “I think I can go ahead and say we couldn’t accommodate [another] 50,000 people.”

The professor also suspects Amazon’s presence in the region would further drive up house prices, making them all the more unaffordable for lower-to-middle income residents.

“We are going to push people out,” Sankaranarayanan says. “The people who would come in working for Amazon, they are going to get about $100,000 a year.”

To Sankaranarayanan, Durham Region has to “make a lot of strides” before it can realistically attract a company the size of Amazon.

“We are growing a lot, but I do not think we are quite there yet.”

With that said, in his view, Durham and the GTA at large undoubtedly has the talent pool to meet Amazon’s HQ2 requirements.

He says with universities such as UOIT, the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo all within hours of each other, there is no lack of young, skilled professionals available for the company to hire.

Some analysts have suggested the economic policies of U.S. President Donald Trump, with an aggressive focus on keeping businesses in the country, may affect the possibility of Amazon coming to Canada.

Sankaranarayanan agrees that the current political climate of Canada’s neighbour to the south will be a “major factor” in the company’s final decision.

“I think that will play a very big role as well,” he said.

It is expected Amazon will announce the location of its proposed second North American headquarters sometime later this year.