Amazon Narrows HQ2 Search to 20 Markets
E-Commerce Giant Includes Many Major Markets but Also a Few Surprises in Running for $5 Billion, 50,000-job HQ in 2018
Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) issued a short list of 20 metropolitan areas making the next cut in the competition to host the company’s second North America headquarters. This top 20 were narrowed from 238 proposals Amazon received from across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in an unprecedented bidding process to host the company’s second North America headquarters.
Amazon said it will work in coming months with each of the candidate locations to request more information and "dive deeper into their proposals" for the internet retailer's planned $5 billion investment and up to 50,000 employees, a partnership expected to bring profound economic development benefits to the winning market.
Editor's note: More to follow as CoStar News updates this breaking news story throughout the day. Updated: 2:50 p.m. EST, Jan. 18
The next cut for the massive headquarters includes expected contenders such as New York City, Chicago, L.A. and D.C., but also several smaller markets such as Raleigh, Indianapolis, Columbus, Newark and Pittsburgh. Amazon listed the metros in alphabetical order and offered no signals about which geographic area or market the company would prefer.
The early morning decision brought swift reaction from local officials vying for the headquarters.
"We are beaming right now," said Kelly Smallridge, president of the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County, FL, of Miami's inclusion on the list. "South Florida is hip, chic, urban and we’re attractive to millennials. I’m not surprised at all that we made the list."
The South Florida counties of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade teamed to present a regional bid to Amazon that included confidential real estate sites in each county, Smallridge said.
"Over the coming weeks and months, we look forward to working more closely with [Amazon] to show them why Music City would be the perfect fit for their company," Nashville Mayor Megan Barry said in a Twitter post.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett tweeted that Central Indiana’s "unique combination of connectivity, quality of life, and affordable living has once again put us on the global stage." In a statement, Hogsett said the inclusion shows that "every day we are gaining more recognition as a growing tech hub."
"As a thriving city with a talented and diverse workforce, culture of innovation and opportunity for all, I see no better city than Boston for Amazon to call their second home," Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement.
While Boston shares finalist status with 19 other cities, locals feel Beantown may have better odds than most of its competitors. That feeling was bolstered when it was revealed two weeks ago that Amazon was already seeking to lease up to 1 million square feet in the city.
Amazon has been looking to land space in the city’s revamped Seaport District, separate from the headquarters search. Boston's official bid for the new Amazon headquarters is focused around the 161-acre Suffolk Downs horse racing track property in East Boston and neighboring Revere. The company already employs about 1,000 people in the city.
As the day progressed, analysts speculated on what part of the country has a higher probability of landing the coveted headquarters. Among other observers, Stephen Basham, CoStar senior market analyst for the Los Angeles market, believes Eastern markets have an edge.
"Amazon looks to be interested in expanding their geographical footprint," Basham said. "Three-fourths of the finalist cities are east of the Mississippi River, and Los Angeles was the only West Coast metro to make the cut."
The selection of three metros in the Washington, DC/Maryland/Virginia region has to position the region among the favorites, Basham said. As has always been the case, though, the final pick will likely hinge on what specific incentives and concessions the candidates are willing to offer.
"It would be hard to overstate the impact that an Amazon headquarters would have," Basham added. "You just have to look at how Seattle has transformed over the past 10-15 years as an example of a major metro that has been reshaped and revitalized by a single company."
Residential REIT analyst Aaron Hecht of JMP Securities opined that Atlanta or Austin are the most likely destination due to their active tech industry bases, quality higher-education institutions, favorable cost of living and low corporate tax rates.
"Although a number of East Coast cities have stronger strategic geographic locations to conduct business internationally, we believe the benefits being offered by many of those cities will ultimately be watered down by local politics," Hecht continued.
"With Amazon already having its first headquarters in Seattle, which has a high cost of living and with local politicians looking to increase taxes on high wage earners, we believe the company will look for a city with more conservative views on tax policies," Hecht said.
Amazon's move comes less than a day after Apple, Inc. announced plans to ramp up its US investment by adding 20,000 jobs and another U.S. corporate campus in investments worth an estimated $350 billion to the U.S. economy over five years.
Amazon said its HQ2 will be a complete co-headquarters and not a satellite office. In addition to 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 region.
Over the past five years, Amazon has invested more than $100 billion in the U.S., including corporate offices, development and research centers, fulfillment infrastructure and compensation to the company's 540,000 employees.
"Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough," said Holly Sullivan, of Amazon Public Policy. "All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity. Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation."
The 20 metropolitan areas advancing to the next phase of the process include the following:
CoStar News reporters and editors Mark Heschmeyer, Paul Owers, John Doherty, Jacquelyn Ryan and Tony Wilbert contributed to this report.