By Nathaniel Valyo, National News Writer
Amazon has narrowed the search for the home of their second headquarters to twenty cities in both the United States and Canada.
The tech giant’s proposal for “HQ2” back in September set off a chain reaction among cities around the country, with proposals coming from 238 different locations. The shortlist, announced last Thursday, January 18, includes major metropolitan areas such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago, but also includes smaller areas like Pittsburgh, Raleigh, and Columbus, Ohio.
“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough,” said Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s Chief of Economic Development. “All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.” Sullivan later added: “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”
The area surrounding Washington, D.C. has the most potential, according to some observers, with three of the twenty bids coming from Montgomery County in Maryland as well as Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. itself. The remaining finalists are Miami, Indianapolis, Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Newark, Austin, Dallas, Nashville, and Boston. Toronto, the largest city in the Canadian province of Ontario, is Canada’s sole shot at reeling in the e-commerce giant.
The final tally of twenty locations surprisingly denied bids from major cities like San Diego, Phoenix, and tech-savvy cities in California’s Silicon Valley region. Amazon’s list looked toward the east, presumably due to the large technology presence and high cost of living currently on the West Coast.
Amazon’s criteria were simple: a city with a metropolitan area of at least one million people, strong academic institutes driving tech talent, a favorable local tax environment, cultural and recreational amenities, and close proximity to an international airport. The corporate titan is most interested in “cities that can support long term life goals, be it school quality or vibrant and emerging downtown living, working and play,” according to Helen Thompson, a development expert at Esri, a mapping company.
The proposal for a new headquarters came at a time when the company’s original headquarters in Seattle became too small to handle all of Amazon’s extensive business operations. Seattle, where CEO Jeff Bezos founded the company in 1994, saw their total economy grow exponentially. Amazon estimates its operations brought in roughly $38 billion for the city between 2010 and 2016 alone.
Seeing the large economic impact that Amazon brought to Seattle was the catalyst for many mayors across the country to go all-in with their proposals for HQ2. The company promised the same economic benefits that Seattle received for its new headquarters, and predicted that the new location could support 50,000 new jobs, and $5 billion in investments and construction costs.
However, while Amazon was decidedly instrumental in Seattle’s growth, it is important to note several of the shortcomings or negative effects of Amazon’s presence, such as Seattle’s major traffic issues and soaring housing prices, which greatly affected the low-income earners of the city and favored big business.
Newark city mayor Ras Baraka said the new headquarters would have “a tremendous social and economic impact on this city, state and region by coming to Newark.” Toronto is the “obvious choice” for Amazon’s second home according to Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne. New York City even displayed “Amazon orange” on its buildings and skyscrapers in an effort to attract the company’s attention. Amazon is expected to announce their decision by the end of 2018.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, January 30th print edition.
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