Hashtag Trending – Amazon HQ2 frontrunners

Editor’s Note: Mandy Kovacs is no longer with ITWC, but before leaving she was able to record one more episode of Hashtag Trending for us. Enjoy!

Amazon caused a frenzy when it announced plans to build a second headquarters somewhere in North America earlier this year.

The $5 billion USD investment and a promise of creating 50,000 jobs spurred more than 230 proposals from cities across the continent.

A 20-city shortlist has been chosen, with a decision expected by the end of 2018, but rumours say Amazon has already picked its HQ2 location.

Welcome to a special edition of Hashtag Trending! As you might have guessed, today’s episode is looking at which cities seem to be the frontrunners for Amazon’s second headquarters. The company has said it’s looking for a city that can offer tech talent and a business-friendly environment, but it’s also emphasized culture, diversity, affordable housing, a high quality of life, and recreational opportunities.

Look for our usual format to return on Aug. 14.

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I’ll cut to the chase for our Canadian listeners first: Toronto was the only city outside of the US on the shortlist and while most analysts score Toronto very well based on Amazon’s requirements, the company has recently opened a new fulfillment centre in Ottawa and expanded its team in Vancouver to around 5,000 employees, which makes it unlikely that they would choose another Canadian city for HQ2. Canadian cities were also prohibited from offering tax breaks like most US cities on the list, so while Toronto has a great business environment full of world-class schools, tech professionals, transportation systems, and green space, it seems like an underdog right now.

What has caught the eye of many analysts is Washington, D.C. I’m also going to lump in Montgomery County, Maryland, and northern Virginia in this because of their close proximity to the city. Not only does Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos own the Washington Post, he’s also been spending a lot of time there recently. Maryland has offered the company a $5 billion dollar incentive package, while DC and Virginia have apparently offered lucrative pitches as well. Northern Virginia is also called the bullseye of America’s internet, and approximately 70 per cent of the world’s internet traffic flows through its Data Center Alley. Amazon is also building its cloud business headquarters in the area, and with lots of space and cheap energy, D.C. or Northern Virginia could be the perfect choice.

Next up is Boston, Massachusetts, which was actually predicted to be the winner of HQ2 by Wells Fargo’s AI system. Boston has a successful business culture, access to world-class universities, and has approved $5 million in property tax incentives over 15 years and another $5 million in breaks if the company agrees to more local expansion and job creation. A recent study of Amazon job ads in the Boston area also tell us that the city is ramping up hiring there, which could be a telling sign. And like DC and northern Virginia, it’s on the east coast, which seems to be what Amazon is looking for to balance out its original Seattle-based headquarters.

And last but not least is Austin, Texas. Not only is it home to Whole Foods, which Amazon acquired last year, it’s also quickly becoming known for its rising population of tech professionals and businesses. Job growth and tech job growth in particular have been explosive over the last couple years, which has made it a startup hub with a great business environment. However, a rising cost of living and a lack of workplace diversity could be deciding factors.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Eric Emin Wood
Eric Emin Wood
Former IT World Canada associate editor turned consultant with public relations firm Porter Novelli. When not writing for the tech industry enjoys photography, movies, travelling, the Oxford comma, and will talk your ear off about animation if you give him an opening.

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