After months of sifting through 238 proposals, Amazon has finally narrowed the number of potential locations for its second headquarters to just 20 cities.
One of these locales stands to benefit from an influx of $50 billion in development and up to 50,000 high-paid jobs. To qualify for Amazon’s second headquarters, known as HQ2, the cities had to meet a short list of requirements. These requirements include a population of at least 1 million, proximity to an international airport, access to public transit, up to 8 million square feet for future office expansion, a stable business environment, an educated workforce, low cost of living, and a high quality of life.
Amazon has created an environment where business owners can truly thrive, now it’s ready to provide potential next level success to one of these lucky cities.
Here’s a closer look at Amazon’s top 20 picks, what they can offer the retail giant, and what they might get in return:
Atlanta has found itself on the list of frontrunners for Amazon’s HQ2. The details of the bid have not been made public but the mayor of Atlanta, Kaseen Reed, has indicated that the city is offering incentives and improvements of more than $1 billion. With an expansive transit system, an international airport, research universities, and a strong workforce, Atlanta seems to hit all the right markers. And the fact that Amazon registered a lobbyist with the Georgia State Ethics Commission in December, certainly suggests they may be at the front of the pack.
Already a tech hub, Austin offers an educated workforce, a low cost of living, a growing population, and a unique culture. The city is currently home to around 900 Amazon corporate employees and the Whole Foods headquarters, now owned by Amazon, which could make it a natural fit. HQ2 would be more than just a campus in Austin. The city plans to position the company to be a real driver for the economic, social, and cultural growth of the city, giving it the power to shape the landscape for years to come.
Nearly all business insiders place Boston near the top of contenders for HQ2. It’s proximity to Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gives Amazon access to some of the brightest minds in the tech field which gives the city, and the company, a significant advantage. The proposed site of Suffolk Downs stands ready for multipurpose development which includes residential buildings, meaning Amazon could shape the space to their growing needs and up to 20% of the employees at HQ2 could live nearby. The city has offered an “Amazon Task Force” of city employees whose only purpose is to represent Amazon’s interest to the municipal government. Boston has said they will offer tax incentives if they made it to the second round but they’ve yet to reveal what those are.
The state of Illinois has offered Amazon over $2 billion in tax breaks if it builds HQ2 in Chicago and it has implied that the number could increase should the company build on the state-owned land that is being offered. Chicago has been getting a lot of negative press of late and landing this bid could not only turn around the conversation about one of America’s great cities, it could turn around the city itself.
Columbus is a growing city, popular with young people. It has offered Amazon a 100% property tax abatement and 35% income tax refunds for 15 years. Columbus lacks the talent pool found in other cities on the list but with two Amazon distribution centers and three data centers already located in central Ohio, it could work. HQ2 in Columbus would allow the city to continue to grow and stay competitive with blossoming tech centers in the region like Pittsburgh.
Like Austin, Dallas has not offered Amazon any major tax incentives and are relying on the unique and diverse population of the city, and its many amenities, to attract HQ2. One of the appealing things about Dallas is that it already has an established, thriving economy and because Texas has no state income taxes, it could mean serious savings for Amazon. Many insiders consider Dallas to be one of the darkhorse candidates.
Denver is offering Amazon what it offers all major companies that consider Colorado for a home base, it’s proposing performance-based incentives, namely the state’s “Strategic Fund Incentive” and the “Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit.” Combined, these incentives could save Amazon more than $100 million in taxes. A viable tech talent pool, low cost of living, and a booming start-up scene are the reasons Business Insider put Denver in 5th place when ranking likely winners. It’s worth noting that the New York Times has Denver winning the bid.
The exact details of Indianapolis’ bid have been kept under wraps but local representatives are choosing to take their making the first cut as a truly good sign. Located in the Midwest, the city offers easy connectivity to other major urban centers, high quality of life, and affordable housing -- all key elements on Amazon’s list of must-haves.
Los Angeles is also being tight-lipped when it comes to the details of their bid but they have indicated that they would offer costs and incentives. Los Angeles is obviously a thriving cultural hub and it is located only hours away from Silicon Valley. But given that the current Amazon HQ is on the west coast, and the bulk of the finalists are located in the midwest or farther east, it seems unlikely that L.A. will be the big winner here.
Miami is yet another city with a secret bid. But, when you consider logistics, Miami is a possible contender. Given that the city is a major international distribution hub, it could make sense to put HQ2 close to the action. With its current headquarters in the northwest, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that Amazon might seriously consider a second headquarters in the southeast.
Montgomery County, Maryland
Montgomery County is a wealthy suburb of Washington D.C. Maryland state officials have come together to propose a $5 billion incentive package to Amazon. Montgomery County has one of the highest percentages of residents with postgraduate degrees in the country. Since three regions in “the Beltway” have been named (Montgomery County, Northern Virginia, and Washington, D.C.), and the fact that Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns a home in the area, it could mean the region is under serious consideration.
Nashville opted to shy away from offering large tax incentives and instead pitched Amazon on their thriving culture, development, and growing population. The exact details of the bid are not known, but Nashville is a hub for higher education which would give the company access to a young and evolving workforce.
Newark, New Jersey
Newark made serious waves when they announced the contents of their bid for HQ2. Then Governor Chris Christie offered $7 billion in tax incentives, the highest of all bids. But they have offered the most, perhaps because they have the most to gain. With the unemployment rate at nearly twice that of the other cities on the list and one-third of its population living below the poverty line, HQ2 has the power to truly transform Newark.
New York City
With a population of 8.5 million people, what can’t New York offer Amazon? Perhaps most significantly, the city has the largest tech talent pool in the country and ample space for both HQ2 and its potential employees. As an economic and cultural capital, it seems likely that New York could make the top 5 finalists.
As is the case with the other Beltway competitors, Northern Virginia offers several enticing locations and prospects. The details of the bid have remained secret but with a highly educated population, proximity to Dulles International and 70% of the world’s internet traffic flowing through the area’s existing data centers, Northern Virginia is worth serious consideration.
Philadelphia presents an interesting case. Like many other cities, they have not made all the details of their pitch public but unlike some of the others, Philadelphia is on the cusp of a significant boom. A university town, Philly boasts a deep talent pool, ample space for an Amazon campus, and the cost of living is still low enough to be a significant factor.
While Pittsburgh has been quiet on the details, it has said their proposed tax incentives have made a competitive package. Not one of the obvious choices on the list, Pittsburgh is becoming something of a technical hub, with Uber’s autonomous vehicle research institute in town, and access to graduates from Carnegie Mellon, their bid is worth close consideration.
Raleigh, North Carolina
Raleigh has kept a tight lid on its plans for Amazon, including denying several public records requests. But it’s proximity to Duke University, the University of North Carolina, and North Carolina State University, Raleigh guarantees a readily available wealth of talent. It also has a diverse economy and well-established infrastructure presenting Amazon with the opportunity to contribute to an already thriving community.
Toronto is the only city outside the continental United States to remain in the running. With the US looking to keep jobs at home, and Toronto not offering tax incentives this bid seems like a long shot. However, Canada has a more open immigration policy that could allow Amazon to more easily access top talent from around the world as well as Toronto’s own highly educated workforce. And with the lower currency rates and corporate taxes, a single-payer healthcare system, and lower tech wages, Amazon could save $1.5 billion a year.
Washington offered Amazon some seriously lucrative tax breaks, including a 0% corporate tax rate for 5 years. They have also proposed creating an “Amazon University” that would train skilled workers specifically for work at HQ2. Many analysts consider D.C. to be a serious contender. Cost of living is high, but an educated workforce, a diverse economy, and a wealth of amenities give it a significant boost. It also doesn’t hurt that Jeff Bezos has a home in the area and owns The Washington Post.
These 20 cities all have something valuable to offer Amazon or they wouldn’t be on the list. While Atlanta, Boston, and Austin seem to be the most likely candidates, where HQ2 actually lands is anybody’s guess. But one thing is certain, millions of people will be paying extra close attention to every move Amazon makes in the months ahead.