Last month, Amazon announced that it wanted to open a second North American headquarters, setting off a scramble among economic development officials from the United States, Canada and Mexico eager for as many as 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment the company says it plans to make in another city.
Seattle-based Amazon and its founder, Jeffrey P. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post, began the search for “HQ2″ by publishing its criteria online. Bezos issued a statement saying he expected the new location “to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters. Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in upfront and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We’re excited to find a second home.”
If Amazon fulfills its plan to add 50,000 jobs and 8 million square feet of office space in another city, it will amount to the largest corporate move in decades, although the company plans to maintain its current Seattle headquarters. Some governors and mayors have already begun floating subsidies of as much as $7 billion while others have filmed online videos or launched marketing campaigns aligned with their bids. On the day bids were due, Oct. 19, buildings around New York City were lit orange to match the company’s logo.
The next step is for Amazon’s real estate team to sort through the bids and decide which proposals to consider more closely. It plans to make a decision early next year.
However, urban policy analysts have warned that jurisdictions ought to tread lightly when offering single corporations large subsidies, arguing that investing in workforce, education and transportation tends to be a better bet for economic growth. To accommodate the company’s growth in Seattle, taxpayers funded hundreds of millions of dollars in improvements, although Amazon directly contributed $30 billion to the local economy.
Affordable-housing advocates point to spikes in rents in Seattle as evidence that bidding cities ought to prepare for rising housing costs if Amazon decides to locate thousands of highly paid employees there.
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz