Amazon HQ2 is a proposed new corporate headquarters for online retailer and tech company Amazon in North America, to supplement the existing Seattle headquarters. Amazon announced the initiative, along with a request for proposals from governments and economic development organizations, in September 2017, attracting attention from more than 200 cities in Canada, the United States and Mexico. Amazon intends to have 50,000 workers at HQ2 and is planning to invest $5 billion in new construction. A shortlist of 20 finalists was announced January 18, 2018.
Amazon.com was founded in 1994 in Bellevue, Washington, and moved to leased space in the SoDo neighborhood of Seattle. As the company grew, it went through a series of office moves around Downtown Seattle, until announcing a move to a purpose-built headquarters campus in the South Lake Union neighborhood, then a light industrial enclave undergoing urban renewal. As of 2017[update], Amazon occupies 8.1 million square feet (750,000 m2) of office space in 33 buildings, employing 40,000 white collar workers.
Amazon's request for proposals outlined several core requirements, as well as optional preferences.
- Metropolitan areas with a population of over 1 million
- A stable and business-friendly environment
- Within 30 miles (48 km) of a population center
- Within 45 minutes of an international airport
- Proximity to major highways and arterial roads 1–3 miles (2–5 km)
- Access to mass transit routes
- Up to 8 million square feet (740,000 m2) of office space for future expansion
As of October 23, 2017[update], 238 proposals had been submitted and received by Amazon, representing cities and regions from 54 states, provinces, districts, and territories. The only U.S. states that did not have a locality that submitted a formal proposal were Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. The Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Saskatchewan also declined to bid, along with the Yukon Territory.
Sun Corridor, a Tucson, Arizona economic development firm, sent a 21-foot saguaro cactus to Amazon in an attempt to promote the city's bid. The gift was rejected due to the company's corporate gifts policy, instead donating it to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
Sly James, mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, purchased 1,000 products from Amazon, which he donated to charity. James wrote 5-star reviews for each one of them, in which every review mentioned positive attributes of Kansas City.
For one of Canada's many bids, messages hoping to persuade Amazon to move to Calgary were sprayed onto sidewalks in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood. During an Ottawa Senators hockey game, fans were encouraged to "make noise" for the city of Ottawa's Amazon bid.
Contrary to other cities, Little Rock, Arkansas, purchased a full-page ad in the Washington Post "breaking up" with Amazon, where they described their decision to not submit a bid, while also touting the city's positive attributes. A few days after the bid deadline, the campaign flew a banner plane over Seattle with the same message.
On January 18, 2018, Amazon announced its shortlist of 20 finalists for the HQ2 bidding process. The list focuses mainly on the East Coast and Midwest, with Los Angeles as the sole West Coast finalist. Toronto was the only finalist outside of the United States.
- Atlanta, Georgia
- Austin, Texas
- Boston/East Boston, Massachusetts
- Chicago, Illinois
- Columbus, Ohio
- Dallas, Texas
- Denver, Colorado
- Indianapolis, Indiana
- Los Angeles, California
- Miami, Florida
- Montgomery County, Maryland
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Newark, New Jersey
- New York City, New York
- Northern Virginia (Loudoun County, Virginia and Fairfax County, Virginia)
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Toronto, Ontario
- Washington, D.C.
Amazon began tours of its finalist cities in late February. Bidding cities also signed non-disclosure agreements with Amazon for the duration of the bid process. NBC News reported in May that visits to the 20 finalists had been finished by Amazon and that it was close to making a decision.
The announcement came as a surprise in Seattle, where Amazon is actively expanding their South Lake Union campus and has 40,000 workers occupying almost 20 percent of the city's office space. Former Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that he would begin conversations with Amazon about their long-term plans for the city, while the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce characterized the announcement as a "wake-up call" to improve the city's business climate. Comparisons were made to Boeing's decision to move their corporate headquarters from Seattle to Chicago in 2001, which came as a surprise to the city but ultimately only affected a few hundred corporate jobs.
Moody's Analytics published an analysis of bidding metropolitan areas and determined that Austin, Texas, ranks highest among Amazon's criteria, followed by Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Rochester, New York. The New York Times also completed an analysis which found Denver to be the best site based on Amazon's criteria, followed closely by Boston and Washington D.C. Irish gambling site Paddy Power originally listed Atlanta as the odds on favorite to win HQ2, with 2-to-1 odds  but, as of January 2018, lists Atlanta and Austin as sharing 3-to-1 odds of winning Amazon HQ2.
Criticism and opposition
Steven Strauss, a visiting professor of public policy at Princeton University and an expert on economic development, in an editorial in USA Today suggested that metropolitan areas should be cautious about bidding too generously to win the Amazon bid. He points to examples where companies have gone bankrupt and/or not followed up on expansion plans and notes that it is possible cities could over pay (the so-called "winner's curse") by providing an overly generous incentive package that turns out to be a money-losing proposition for the municipality if all the promised jobs don't materialize.
Conservative and liberal advocacy groups voiced their opposition to various tax breaks promised by cities in hopes of luring Amazon.
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