People are furious about Amazon's reported HQ2 picks

Dwayne Harmon
November 7, 2018

Amazon's announcement over a year ago that they would establish a second headquarters that is a "full equal" to their original headquarters in Seattle was seen as a snub of the city.

Depends on who you ask.

New York City has been reported as a potential second location.

Talks with the Triangle and some other cities had "cooled", according to the report. "Memo to the genius leaking info about Crystal City, VA as #HQ2 selection".

Officials in Virginia believe there's a strong likelihood Amazon will pick Crystal City in northern Virginia as one of its sites, but the company has not said anything definitive, according to the person, who was not authorized to speak on the record. "And stop treating the NDA you signed like a used napkin", tweeted Mike Grella, Amazon's Director of Economic Development.

"My gut feeling is that the size of this project can not be easily supported by a single community, and therefore they will split this project into two communities", Austin economist Angelos Angelou, principal executive officer of economic development and site selection consulting firm AngelouEconomics, tells CultureMap.

Meanwhile, the Washington, DC, metro area has been considered a favorite for the site. Crystal City is a suburb of Washington, D.C. It's the only region with three finalists on the short list, and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post and has a home in the nation's capital.

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The tempting offer sent cities across the United States, Mexico and Canada into a frenzy.

The whole process, said John Landry, a startup investor from Wayland, was "a stunt to derive incredible amounts of free, Amazon-worshipping 'advertising.' They got mayors, pols, and business leaders all juiced up about what Amazon could do for their cities, and in turn Amazon got to hear just what the cities would give up for the mighty, glorious giant to move there". He envisions a similar effect on Austin's real estate market. There's been intense competition to win over the company, with some throwing around billions of dollars in tax incentives. "It allows Amazon to double-dip and maximize the incentives it receives from governments", he said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

He does say that this endeavor could be beneficial for the city in the long run. Philadelphia released a heavily redacted proposal that included information about possible sites and its talent pool, but blocked out details about incentives.

This may have something to do with Amazon being sensitive to criticisms that no one municipality could absorb the large impact of Amazon's HQ2 as it had been proposed.

Whatever they end up doing, it will have to happen quickly if Amazon intends to meet its goal of 500,000 square feet of office space by next year.

According to a source familiar with the search, Amazon wrapped up visits to all 20 finalists this summer. But building a new city around a single employer risks creating a community that will collapse if the employer ever pulls out.

But while visions of throngs of wealthy taxpayers suddenly appearing in their cities lured many officials, other expressed concerns that an unprecedented flood of young, highly-educated, well-paid workers from elsewhere might destroy the very charm and culture of the cities that made them so alluring in the first place.

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