Amazon is a hot commodity these days, and not just with consumers. The online retailer has grown into a major economic powerhouse, and many cities want a piece of that action. After the announcement that Amazon planned to open a second headquarters, more than 200 cities signed up for consideration. Recently, Amazon announced it has trimmed that list to 20 contenders, most in the Midwest and at least one in Canada.
Contenders still in the running include Toronto, Boston, New York, Chicago, Columbus, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Austin, Dallas, Miami, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. Those left off the list included Memphis and Detroit, two cities desperate for an infusion of outside capital. Amazon called the trimming process very tough.
“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough… All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity…”
Now, though, the toughest cuts have to be made. Going from 20 down to 1 will not be easy. Amazon will have to weigh multiple factors such as available property, potential workforce, local incentives and potential for growth as the company continues to expand. Based on those issues, certain cities may have much less of a shot than others.
At this point, the next step for Amazon is to get some clarity on those and other factors. That will mean more meetings with the cities, digging deeper into the proposals and an endless parade of wining, dining and hopeful handshakes. Who said there wouldn’t be perks?
And those perks are well deserved. For the winning city, Amazon has promised at least 50,000 new jobs, as well as construction spending in excess of $5 billion. No matter how you slice it, that’s a huge benefit to any metro area. So, in trying to make the shortlist, many cities got very creative … with mixed results. New York turned the Empire State Building Amazon orange, while Tucson sent a massive cactus to the company’s Seattle offices. Not sure what they were thinking there, but if you guessed they didn’t make the cut, you’re not wrong.
So, what is Amazon looking for in an expanded home? They want a city in excess of one million residents, near a major international airport, with great mass transit, and plenty of room to grow. This last factor may be one of the most important. Amazon expects to continue to expand by leaps and bounds in the coming years as more and more people shift to online shopping. Then there’s the “minor” issue of tax breaks and other financial incentives. Which city will get the nod? Right now, Amazon is savoring the suspense.
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