What’s next now that Amazon has narrowed the list of contenders vying to entice the online retail giant to build its second headquarters in their city?
Ryan Combs, executive director of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, which submitted seven proposed sites, said Friday that Amazon hasn’t spelled out what else it needs to keep the region in contention for the $5 billion project.
“We anticipate hearing back in the near future,” Combs said.
In the meantime, expect more guesswork and analysis as think tanks, pundits and journalists try to narrow the field. The first two came Friday – and had wildly different outcomes. The California think tank, Milken Institute, applied its list of the nation’s best-performing cities to the HQ2 finalists and Raleigh came in at No. 1. However, Sperling’s BestPlaces put Raleigh at No. 14 on its contenders’ list and Atlanta at No. 1, saying it was affordable and had the necessary open space.
We took a look at all that has been written and said over the past four months about the 20 contestants still in the running and made own scorecard in case you want to do your own handicapping.
Pros: A booming logistics and distribution center. Academic institutions that produce leading research, graduates and ideas that influence the supply chain industry.
Con: Major traffic congestion problems.
Pros: Has scored well on many lists. Another state with a good education system turning out a tech-savvy workforce. People like living there. It has public transit.
Con: Austin isn’t playing the incentives game. At least that’s what city officials said in October, according to The Texas Tribune. The city’s mayor said Thursday he is unaware of any change in that plan. Amazon is expecting incentives.
Pros: With its rich landscape of colleges, the state has been focused on young professionals in its job-recruitment efforts. It has an enviable mass transit system. Amazon is also expanding its presence there by 1 million square feet of office space, The Boston Globe recently reported.
Con: Expensive to live there.
Pros: Has a good track record of recent industry recruitment. Universities, public transit and two major airports in a big city that is centrally located.
Con: It doesn’t have a large tech presence.
Pros: The company has fulfillment centers and Prime Now operations in the state. The city has been working on the bid with Ohio State officials, according to the campus newspaper. And CNET reported that it is offering Amazon tax breaks for 15 years, including 100 percent property tax abatement.
Con: Columbus is a surprise. It hasn’t been part of the national guessing game and so is a dark horse in the top 20.
Pros: On Thursday, the state’s Republican governor touted Texas as a hotbed for the tech industry in a state known for its low-tax, limited-regulation of the environment as big pluses.
Cons: Moody Analytics scored Dallas poorly on quality of life, cost of living and transportation.
Pros: It was the winner in The New York Times analysis last year and has placed high on some lists while not making others. It has a fast-growing tech presence and is home to IBM, Oracle and Google. It draws millennials and has a relatively lower housing cost, with an active downtown and professional sports. It has a vibrant outdoor recreation culture.
Con: Not far away enough from Seattle? The Denver Post says there has been concern that states to the west of the Eastern Time Zone will be at a disadvantage.
Pros: It has room to build an Amazon headquarters, with good transportation access, The Indianapolis Star reports. Four research universities are within an hour drive, and they produce a skilled workforce.
Cons: Will need to upgrade feeder streets. Mass transit is not advanced. The winters can be brutal.
Pros: If Seattle-based Amazon wants to stay in the West, this is the only option. The Los Angeles Times says several Southern California cities applied to be in the running. “We’ve got rockets and rock stars, more engineers and more sunshine,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement. “The Olympics, two NFL teams, and George Lucas all know L.A. is the future – so should Amazon. And we love that Jeff Bezos already has a home here.” Bezos has several homes.
Cons: Rent and home ownership have been rising, and some businesses have fled the state in search of less regulation and lower costs.
Pros: South Florida is growing, has a strong business climate and has plenty of land. Its new transit system connects Miami to Orlando. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos went to high school in South Florida.
Con: The state’s traffic problems.
Montgomery County, Va.; Northern Virginia; Washington, D.C.
Pros: Talented workers, academic achievement and good public transportation. The former president of Montgomery County’s Business Development Corp. is Amazon’s head of worldwide economic development. Bezos has a home in the District of Columbia, and a newspaper.
Cons: Housing costs. There’s also concern that the project could worsen traffic, drive home prices up further and burden the schools, according to the Washington Post, the little paper Bezos owns.
Pros: If Amazon wants a second HQ on the opposite side of the country, Nashville is almost there. Also, strong job growth.
Cons: The talented labor pool could be bigger and grow faster. Quality of life could be better.
Pros: The state legislature this month authorized $7 billion in state and city tax credits. (Only a few states have disclosed the amount of financial incentives they have offered; North Carolina has not.) Amazon already has a significant presence in New Jersey, with seven fulfillment centers. It has a skilled labor force, universities and a mixed supply of housing.
Cons: Housing prices. Newark’s unemployment and poverty rates are far worse than the other contenders’, according to Wired. There are concerns that the high-paying Amazon jobs will not go to those who live in Newark; rather, they will go to workers from out of state.
New York City
Pros: New York is too big to ignore, says Boyd, the site consultant. It also has lots of real estate that can be redeveloped in the boroughs.
Con: With 9 million people in it, New York might also be too big for comfort.
Pros: Pennsylvania has offered more than $1 billion in tax incentives, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. Strategically located on the East Coast.
Con: Gentrification is pushing young professionals out of some neighborhoods, says site selection expert John Boyd, but an Amazon HQ there could stem that tide with its widespread new hires.
Pros: Tech and engineering labor base, thanks to Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh and others, is transforming the old industrial city.
Cons: Modest growth, a population just over 2 million, and shortcomings in airline travel.
Pro: Skilled workers, growing tech hub, universities, lower cost of living, booming downtown with Red Hat and Citrix, and startups, thriving arts scene, and let’s not forget award-winning chefs.
Con: Anemic transportation system.
Pros: There has been little public analysis of Toronto, partly because of data discrepancies that made it difficult to compare. Boyd says Toronto is in step with Bezos’ immigration and worldview. It also has a strong technology base and is growing rapidly. Google also has operations in that region of Canada.
Cons: The price of homes and commercial real estate is soaring. Sperlman notes being in a different country adds an additional layer of complexity to business operations.
Amazon has said it is looking for:
▪ A metropolitan area of more than 1 million people.
▪ A stable and business-friendly environment.
▪ Cities or suburbs that can attract and keep a technical workforce.
▪ Communities that “think big and creatively” about sites and real estate.
Amazon likes but won’t insist on:
▪ A downtown location.
▪ A campus layout similar to its Seattle headquarters.
▪ Sites that have already been prepped for development.