The action is unmistakable. Cities touting themselves, and pundits speculating on potential winners. And others comparing the process to bidding for the Olympics, but with a very short deadline (October 19).
HERE’s Conor Sen at Bloomberg View on potential winners:
More carrots, please
This is the Olympics of corporate relocations. The winning city will be able to offer a large metro area, a deep and educated talent pool with a strong local university system, a robust international airport, sufficient highway and transit infrastructure, a reasonable cost of living, a welcoming culture, a business-friendly environment, likely eye-popping tax incentives, and a local business and political community able to work together to make a convincing pitch.
By my tally, the options are: Toronto, Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas or Denver.
The New York Times breezily whittles down the candidate cities, one criterion at a time, to pick a single winner. Canadian cites don’t make the starting line, due to relevant data not being in the right sets, or something. With thanks to EMILY BADGER, QUOCTRUNG BUI and CLAIRE CAIN MILLER. The answer is: Denver.
So Denver it is. The city’s lifestyle and affordability, coupled with the supply of tech talent from nearby universities, has already helped build a thriving start-up scene in Denver and Boulder, 40 minutes away. Big tech companies, including Google, Twitter, Oracle and I.B.M., have offices in the two cities. Denver has been attracting college graduates at an even faster rate than the largest cities. The region has the benefits of places like San Francisco and Seattle — outdoor recreation, microbreweries, diversity and a culture of inclusion (specifically cited as a criterion by Amazon) — but the cost of living is still low enough to make it affordable, and lots of big-city refugees have been moving there for this reason. Amazon would be smart to follow them.
HERE’s Joseph Parilla in Brookings:
For what it’s worth, I think Amazon will ultimately make this decision based on where they can get a quality technical workforce at scale, especially one that has a concentration in a key area of expansion for the firm. Regions with research universities with good business schools and computer science departments will be a logical fit, and they will likely want a site with some baseline density and vitality.
New York and the Bay Area offer very large technical labor pools but also a very high cost of living, which will likely exclude them. The draw of Boston’s labor and university base is strong, as evidenced by General Electric’s recent arrival based on those factors. Atlanta is intriguing: its sprawling physical development may be disqualifying, but the city provides a combination of a deep white-collar labor pool, supply chain technology capabilities, Georgia Tech, and a relatively low cost of living. Toronto is Canada’s strongest contender. Going abroad would be politically controversial but Toronto would offer a diverse, cosmopolitan and educated labor force, the University of Toronto’s globally relevant computer science and business school, and a hedge against U.S. political risk.
CityLab’s Aaron Renn speculates on the Bay Area, Boston, L.A., New York, Dallas, Philadelphia and Atlanta. He gives his personal nod to Chicago.
At Slate, Henry Grabar reviews the criteria rather broadly. And gives his nod to Baltimore, Chicago, Denver and Philadelphia. He bookends the analysis with these fascinating thoughts, and some inkling about Amazon’s culture:
It is a one-of-a-kind, six-week sweepstakes, with a $5 billion HQ up for grabs. Nothing like this has ever happened before. At 8.1 million square feet, constituting nearly 20 percent of Seattle’s Class A office space, Amazon’s Seattle campus simply has no parallels in U.S. cities . . . .
The differences between those cities is fodder for endless debate. But what may ultimately be more consequential is where Amazon decides to locate its headquarters within those cities. For all the talk about millennials abandoning car ownership, the biggest determinant of transportation choice is job location. In Seattle, Amazon has established an urban corporate paradigm that serves as a desperately needed counterpoint to the suburban campuses of Apple, Facebook, and Google in Silicon Valley. Amazon reports that 55 percent of Seattle employees walk, bike or use mass transit to get to work.
With its new headquarters, the company has the opportunity to tip the balance of an entire region toward or away from mass transit. The deck is stacked against infill development. But with cities scrambling to put together the pieces for Amazon, expect at least some of the proposals to double as downtown revitalization efforts. Entire cities have been built on less.
Meanwhile, Canadian cities touting their interest range far and wide: Vancouver (of course), Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa, Halifax and Edmonton.