Amazon.com has released a list of 20 regions in the United States and Canada that the online retail giant is considering as possible sites for its second headquarters.
The nation's capital is heavily represented, with D.C., Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburb of Montgomery County also making the cut.
Amazon has said it is seeking an international hub with strong educational institutions and high quality of life that can support as many as 50,000 future employees. To staff the headquarters, Amazon has said it expects to hire tens of thousands of managers, software engineers, accountants, and legal and administrative workers. The company projects that it may need as many as 8 million square feet of space to house its new offices. (Amazon's chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)
"Many of Amazon’s candidates fit the model of cities that are growing through millennial migration," said Helen Thompson, a development expert at the mapping company Esri. "Cities that can support long term life goals, be it school quality or vibrant and emerging downtown living, working and play."
Amazon's announcement in September that it was seeking a location for a second headquarters set off a flurry of activity among cities and communities nationwide.
Driven by Amazon's promise of economic growth, local leaders vied to host the company, which is based in Seattle. In its detailed request for proposals, Amazon said that its presence in Seattle had contributed roughly $38 billion to the city's economy over six years.
But the announcement also raised more difficult questions about the influence of large tech giants on cities and the possible unintended consequences of giving tax breaks and other benefits to an already successful corporate titan. Some Seattle residents have said Amazon's growth put strain on the city's transportation infrastructure and has contributed to a dramatic spike in housing costs — affecting low-income residents and favoring the tech elite.
"I think Amazon would be smart coming into a local economy and putting aside a budget to accommodate ... the people they might be hurting over time by moving in," said Jeff Holzmann, managing director at Iintoo, a real estate investing firm.
Mayors and local governments sought to outdo one another by dangling lavish incentives before Amazon and going to great lengths to understand its requirements. Boston, for example, offered up a 161-acre site for development that was once a horse-racing facility, as well as the prospect of reduced property taxes for up to 20 years. Toronto said it would establish a dedicated help desk for Amazon that would handle its requests for everything from employee training subsidies — worth up to $8,130 per worker — to tax credits for hiring students from Ontario-based colleges and universities.
Bidding documents obtained by public radio station WAMU in Washington, D.C., showed that the District tried to lure Amazon with a five-year, zero-percent corporate tax rate and an exemption from state sales taxes on hardware and software. In Maryland, Montgomery County officials proposed building the Amazon headquarters on the site of the former White Flint mall in North Bethesda, according to Bethesda Magazine.
But as the shortlist shows, not all those efforts panned out, said Michael Parrish DuDell, the author of “Shark Tank: Jump Start Your Business.”
“This is a huge blow for Detroit and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, who built an Amazon war room where more than 40 people worked around the clock to analyze what the online retailer likes and doesn't like,” said DuDell.
It is also possible that some names on the list were included as a way to pressure neighboring regions into sweetening their offer, said Holzmann.
The release of the list prompted celebrations from some local politicians.
“Thx to all who put in hard work to get us here. Let's close the deal and bring it home!” tweeted former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe.
“Honored and excited to be included on @amazon's list of finalists for #AmazonHQ2,” tweeted the city of Raleigh. “Proof that you don't need to live here to know it's an amazing place to call home.”
In a statement, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said the list showed Washington “is no longer a one-company government town” but a “leader in innovation and tech.”
Should Amazon select from the three D.C.-area contenders, the entire region could see a boost, according to urban planning experts. The economic relationships among Northern Virginia, Maryland and the District could prompt Amazon employees to settle in Washington, for example, even if their commutes take them to the immediate suburbs.
“D.C. might stand to be a big beneficiary, even if Arlington gets the ultimate nod,” said Harriet Tregoning, a former planning and development official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Amazon said it now expects to hold discussions with the remaining metro areas to “keep exploring opportunities.” It declined to say when the company may make a final decision.
Here is a complete list of the areas Amazon is considering:
- Columbus, Ohio
- Los Angeles
- Montgomery County, Md.
- New York
- Northern Virginia
- Raleigh, N.C.
- Washington, D.C.