In 2016 and 2017, Amazon quietly rented properties on Southwest Broadway across from each other in downtown Portland.
An analysis obtained by WW shows that if Amazon fills those two spaces, it could become the largest tech employer in the city.
Amazon purchased Portland startup Elemental Technologies in September 2015 for $296 million, rebranding it as AWS (Amazon Web Services) Elemental.
Seven months later, The Oregonian reported that Amazon rented 101,000 square feet at the former Oregonian building at 1320 SW Broadway. Amazon moved AWS Elemental into the space in May 2017, according to CoStar, an independent real estate database that tracks commercial property listings.
In 2017, the Portland Business Journal reported that Amazon signed another lease at the Broadway Tower across the street for 85,000 square feet, bringing Amazon's real estate footprint in Portland to 186,000 square feet. (The company moved into the space in January 2019.)
How many people could work in that footprint? For a company like Amazon, "you're probably looking at 100 to 125 square feet per person," says Mark Friel, director of Apex Real Estate Partners, with 18 years in the appraisal business.
In 186,000 feet of office space, that's as many as 1,860 employees, or as few as 1,488. Assuming Amazon fills those offices, the Seattle-based company would have almost 1,000 more employees than what is likely the next-largest tech employer in the city, New Relic. In fact, Amazon commands more floor space in Portland than the next two largest tech companies—Vacasa and New Relic—combined. (Intel's Washington County properties still dwarf Amazon's footprint.)
After press deadlines, Amazon told WW that it hasn't hired nearly that many people in Portland yet. The company says about 400 people are working in the two buildings. The company has almost 100 open job listings at Amazon and AWS Elemental, according to Amazon.jobs.
Rick Turoczy, co-founder of startup accelerator PIE, says Amazon's size is felt by local tech companies—because the online retail and cloud computing giant is gobbling up Portland's tech workforce. "It's definitely making it challenging for homegrown companies to hire the talent they need," he says.
These workers code in Amazon's lucrative web services division, which provides cloud computing services. ABC and the BBC and are two of its customers.