Hundreds of cities vie to become home to Amazon’s HQ2

Global Business

FILE – In this Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017, file photo, an Amazon employee gives her dog a biscuit as the pair head into a company building, where dogs are welcome, in Seattle. Amazon says it received 238 proposals from cities and regions hoping to be the home of the company’s second headquarters. The online retailer kicked off its hunt for a second headquarters in September, promising to bring 50,000 new jobs. It will announce a decision sometime in 2018. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

HQ2 – That’s the name Amazon has given its proposed new corporate headquarters.

The e-commerce and cloud computing juggernaut is looking to expand beyond its current base in Seattle, Washington. Hundreds of cities across North America are now vying to become Amazon’s second home.

CGTN’s Hendrik Sybrandy reports.

“It’s exciting,” said Yuriy Gorlov, vice-president of the Aurora Economic Development Council. “This is what we live for as economic developers.”

Gorlov has seen the way the world’s largest online retailer has turbocharged Seattle’s economy over the past 23 years. He thinks his city of 360,000 could experience something similar. He said Aurora checks all the boxes when it comes to Amazon’s second headquarters.

“We’re a perfect fit,” Gorlov said.

In September, Amazon invited cities across North America to apply for HQ2, promising to invest $5 billion in the facility and create as many as 50,000 jobs paying an average of $100,000 a year. By its deadline, 238 places had submitted proposals.

“It’s really taking the business-to-business approach to sales,” said Darrin Duber-Smith, marketing expert with Metropolitan State University of Denver. He said Amazon is basically looking for the best vendor at the best price, much the way the Olympics or the World Cup pick host cities.

“So Amazon’s going to try to get its best deal,” Duber-Smith said. “They’re going to try to get the lowest tax rate possible, the best incentive package they possibly can.”

In its request for proposals, Amazon said it wants a metropolitan area with more than one million people, access to mass transit and an international airport and the ability to attract strong technical talent. Cities who fit the bill spared no effort in their bids. One tried to woo Amazon with a six-and-a-half meter cactus. Others made video resumes.

“Amazon, you’re growing your business and we want to grow with you,” said the mayor of one U.S. town. “That’s why we think Frisco, TX is the perfect fit for HQ2.”

HQ2 skeptics worry the new facility could bring more traffic and hurt a city’s quality of life. Some labor groups worry that cost-saving businesses like Amazon don’t always have workers’ best interests at heart.

“We’re concerned about this rapid race to the bottom when it comes to employee wages and standards and benefits,” said Josh Downey, president of the Denver Area Labor Federation.

But one Denver tech recruiter said he’s fully on board. “I think a rising tide lifts all boats,” argued Conor Swanson of Code. “From a technology perspective, a jobs perspective, there’s a lot of awesome reasons to have them here.”

The New York Times agreed when it picked Denver as the ideal site for HQ2.

“I thought perfect, my job is done,” Gorlov said smiling. “We’ll just call the company Monday and invite them over.”

Aurora, which hosts several Amazon centers already, is part of a single Colorado bid.

But Duber-Smith doubts the region has all the labor Amazon needs. “I see more attractive choices on the East Coast than I do here,” he said.

Now, it’s up to Amazon, whose successful growth, it claims, requires them to look beyond Seattle. The decision on which very interested city is chosen as the site for HQ2 is expected sometime next year.

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