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Bezos, Amazon board visiting Washington, but no headquarters announcement planned

Billionaire to make high-profile appearances as HQ2 search continues.

September 11, 2018 at 4:39 PM chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is seen at a company event in Seattle in 2014. (Ted S. Warren/AP) founder Jeffrey P. Bezos and the company's board of directors are arriving in Washington in advance of a series of high-profile appearances for Bezos, amid intense anticipation among local officials and executives about when the Internet giant might announce the location of its second headquarters.

The company says no announcement will be forthcoming on this trip. But four people close to the company's board of directors say the board members are coming to Washington. It is unclear whether the board is holding a formal meeting; Amazon has booked the Renwick Gallery for a 40-person dinner Tuesday night, according to a museum spokesman. The museum did not provide details about the event or who would be attending. Amazon declined to comment.

“You could see it as a tea leaf, that he wants the board to see Washington,” said one local business leader who had heard of the board's plans but spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions were private. “It’s a little bit of a positive sign that it [the meeting] is here and not in Boston,” which is another contender for the new headquarters.

On Thursday evening, Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, will sit for an interview hosted by the Economic Club of Washington, prompting 1,550 people — more than twice the club's typical crowd — to register to attend.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), all of whom have locations in the running for the 50,000 headquarters jobs, are expected to attend, according to the group.

An Amazon spokesman said the location of the second headquarters, dubbed HQ2, will still be decided this year.

On Sept. 19, Bezos will be the keynote speaker at an Air Force conference at National Harbor. Bezos’s space company, Blue Origin, is developing a rocket capable of flying satellites to orbit, and it has said it intends to compete for lucrative Pentagon launch contracts.

Related: With Amazon decision looming, improvements in higher ed, housing gain steam

Bezos is also expected to visit The Post on Friday. Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti declined to provide details, and an Amazon spokesman told Post reporters that Bezos would not be available to answer questions about HQ2 or Blue Origin.

Amazon launched its search for a headquarters outside of its current home in Seattle last September, prompting a flurry of interest from elected officials across North America and 238 proposals from locations looking to land the project. Some analysts expect the company to narrow the field to a handful of finalists, but the company has not made any announcements since narrowing the field to 20 locations in January.

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Amazon chose 20 cities as a possible site for its second headquarters. Watch these application videos to see how hungry locales were for the spot. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.) (Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)

That has not dampened the frenzy surrounding Bezos's arrival in Washington. The Economic Club regularly invites high-profile business executives to be interviewed by the group's president, billionaire David M. Rubenstein, often drawing crowds of between 400 and 650. Attendance at the Bezos event is expected to be the largest since the group's 25th-anniversary event in 2012, when Warren Buffett spoke, a club spokesman said.

The top sponsor of the event is a new nonprofit group, the Washington Housing Initiative, dedicated to addressing the area's shortage of affordable housing, a problem that some local experts say Amazon's arrival could exacerbate. The sponsorship was paid for by local developer JBG Smith, a key backer of the housing initiative that is also pushing to lure the HQ2 project to Crystal City, where it is a major landowner.

"It's a tremendous opportunity to emphasize the need for more affordable and workforce housing in the city and to promote philanthropy and our partners,” said Kevin Clinton of the Federal City Council, a business group that is supporting the housing initiative.

At the Air Force event, hosted by the Air Force Association at National Harbor, Bezos is to be joined by Air Force Gen. John W. Raymond, the commander of the Air Force Space Command.

Another of Bezos’s companies, Amazon Web Services, holds a $600 million contract to provide cloud computing services to the CIA. Now it is eyeing a much larger contract, a Pentagon effort to move to the cloud that could be worth as much as $10 billion over 10 years. Blue Origin has also pitched NASA on building a lunar lander.

Christian Davenport and Peggy McGlone contributed to this report.

Update: Reference to a space conference being held at The Post on Friday in an earlier version of this story has been removed because the conference has been postponed due to the impending hurricane.

Jonathan O'Connell is a reporter focused on economic development, corporate accountability and the Trump Organization.

Robert McCartney is The Washington Post’s senior regional correspondent, covering government and politics in the greater Washington area.

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