Short List for Amazon's second headquarters speaks volumes about cities

Toronto from the islands
© View from Toronto islands, frozen in winter, flooded in summer

There are not many surprises, other than Columbus, Ohio and Toronto, Canada.

Amazon has reviewed the 238 submissions it received to its cattle call for its new, second headquarters, and has cut it down to a short list of twenty cities:

Atlanta, GA
Austin, TX
Boston, MA
Chicago, IL
Columbus, OH
Dallas, TX
Denver, CO
Indianapolis, IN
Los Angeles, CA
Miami, FL
Montgomery County, MD
Nashville, TN
Newark, NJ
New York City, NY
Northern Virginia, VA
Philadelphia, PA
Pittsburgh, PA
Raleigh, NC
Toronto, ON
Washington D.C.

According to their press release,

Amazon evaluated each of the proposals based on the criteria outlined in the RFP to create the list of 20 HQ2 candidates that will continue in the selection process. In the coming months, Amazon will work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate the company’s hiring plans as well as benefit its employees and the local community. Amazon expects to make a decision in 2018.

Or they might follow Chris Turner's suggestion. Richard Florida notes that half of the short list is along the Eastern seaboard, which makes some sense given that the company is now on the other coast; geographic diversity is a logical move.

I wondered about Columbus, but Richard Florida points out its virtues. He also is bullish on Toronto, but I am still a bit surprised that it (where he and I both live) got on the list. For one thing, they did not offer any incentives or subsidies of significance.

Fun? Housing costs are ridiculous. The subway is overcrowded. The civic government is like a 50s time warp that spends billions on highways and subways to nowhere. Tim Horton's sells all the watery coffee and exploits its workers. It's freezing.

On the other hand, a lot of American companies are setting up here because Canada lets educated immigrants in. There might be some real logic in diversifying countries as well as coasts.

In the end, it would be nice if the city was chosen on the basis of merit rather than on the basis of incentives; as I noted in my earlier post, this is going to cost whatever city gets it a huge amount of investment in infrastructure, hospitals and schools. That's why I suspect it will be in one of the bigger US cities, where the impact of such a big investment is less significant (and it cannot dominate an economy like it does in Seattle).

In some ways, Amazon is a poisoned chalice, and previously noted Why they even want a company that has done so much damage to our cities is beyond me. But hey, as they say in the press release,

The company plans to invest over $5 billion and grow this second headquarters to accommodate as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.

That is tough to argue with these days.

Short List for Amazon's second headquarters speaks volumes about cities
There are not many surprises, other than Columbus, Ohio and Toronto, Canada

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