Amazon closed applications for North American cities bidding to host its second headquarters last week in a high profile competition that attracted dozens if not hundreds of cities.
When Amazon announced last month the plan to build a second headquarters, cities across North America scrambled to assemble teams that would come up with blueprints to attract the online retail giant. Philadelphia asked business students to come up with pitches, Chicago put together a huge team with hundreds of members to lure the tech giant and Tucson decided to send a 21-foot tall cactus as a gift symbolizing growth. As outrageous as they may sound, all these were aimed at attracting the $5 billion in construction costs for the new complex and the creation of 50,000 new top-paying jobs expected from the project, which will be a fully fledged headquarters on equal footing with Seattle.
According to the Request for proposals Amazon is looking for a location with a steady supply of talent in software development and related fields as well as an environment that is business-friendly. The preferred candidate will be a metropolitan area with more than one million residents with viable real estate and transit options. On the business-friendly part, Amazon is seeking incentives that could range from workforce grants, utility incentives to tax credits and exemptions. Critics have pointed out that such a formidable company shouldn’t arm-twist cities that are desperate for jobs to grant it tax breaks.
For Seattle, it’s been mixed reactions with some critics pointing at the city’s anti-business environment as a factor in Amazon’s search of an alternative. Others however, think it’s a positive development for Seattle as it will create room for other businesses and at the same time allowing Amazon to grow elsewhere.
With over 380,000 employees worldwide, and more than 40,000 of them based in the state of Washington, the company has been both a bane and blessing to its hometown of Seattle. Its rapid growth has created jobs and stimulated economic growth in the city but at the same time bore the brunt of local residents and civic leaders for its contribution to traffic congestion and rising housing prices. This situation where Amazon seems to have outgrown Seattle, the split of its HQ function to two locations will be attractive to talent, allowing employees to choose where to live.
Going forward, Amazon may as well take the rest of the year looking closely at each proposal.
The company said that the selection of the new location will happen in 2018 with the first phase commencing in 2019. The project will consist of three phases and will occupy more than 8 million square feet when complete.
Amazon is still ramping up its growth in Seattle. Last week, the company announced it is going to lease office space above Macy’s store where it will take up at least six floors. The company has 50,000 employees in Seattle and intends to add 2 million additional square feet of office space.