Amazon pushing to be the top technology company in Vancouver

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Amazon (Nasdaq:AMZN) may have debuted at No. 4 on Business in Vancouver’s list of the top 100 tech companies in B.C., but the American tech giant appears to have its eyes set on challenging Telus (TSX:T) for the top spot.

Last week the company announced a new downtown office in QuadReal’s The Post development, which will overhaul the vacant Canada Post building at Homer and West Georgia streets, and 3,000 new jobs to fill it.

The release of the plans for the office development, which is expected to be running by 2022, comes on the heels of last November’s announcement of a 1,000-person Amazon office at 402 Dunsmuir Street to be completed by 2020.

Combined with the company’s Vancouver office and its 1,000 employees in the Telus Garden complex at 510 West Georgia Street, Amazon will have 5,000 employees in downtown Vancouver in five years’ time, all within a block’s distance of each other.

The Seattle-based multinational currently has 1,800 employees in B.C. Although most are in Vancouver, Delta and New Westminster host about 500 in fulfilment centres.

But Amazon isn’t waiting for the completion of future offices to continue ramping up its Vancouver operations.

The company’s leasing of temporary office space through WeWork, which initially occupied four floors and included approximately 300 employees in the Bentall Centre, now includes more than 80,000 square feet and 500 employees, according to Amazon spokesman Adam Sedo.

During last week’s press conference, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson highlighted ongoing efforts to improve transportation links between Vancouver and Seattle as directly benefiting many Pacific Northwest businesses. Those links include the recent launch of direct seaplane flights between the cities’ harbours and the potential installation of high-speed rail linking the two.

The event was filled with fanfare celebrating Amazon and Vancouver, and even included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had flown in to thank Amazon for committing to bring thousands of jobs to Canada.

Outside of industry speculation, many did not know the details of QuadReal’s updated development plans for The Post project and how involved Amazon was. Event invitees were surprised to see a large mockup rendering inside the atrium that included Amazon signage on the top of the office tower facing West Georgia Street.

Even local Amazon employees were surprised by the announcement of the new development. Many did not know if they would continue to operate in their WeWork offices or for how long.

The announcement put to rest any rumours of Amazon repurposing the old post office as a shipping centre, at least for now.

The latest renderings show an integrated design retail level that modernizes most of the existing facade, with two new office towers above.

Questions remain around the impact that Amazon’s hiring spree will have on the local economy, especially considering that it’s underway even though the first new office will not open for another year and a half.

The company declined to comment on whether the new offices would be filled entirely with new hires or if some of the employees at WeWork offices would be shifted over.