Amazon — that massive, gushing river of deliveries that has fundamentally and forever changed the modern retail business — has announced that it is looking to build a second corporate headquarters somewhere in North America. Cities like Columbus are jockeying for position and hoping that they get picked to host the Amazonians.
Landing Amazon and its “HQ2” has got to be tempting for just about any city. You can look at what Amazon has done for Seattle, where its corporate headquarters is located, and see what having Amazon might mean. Amazon employs 40,000 people on its Seattle campus, it uses an enormous chunk of the available Seattle commercial real estate, and it calculates that, since 2010, it has contributed $38 billion to the Seattle economy. The proposed “HQ2” is being presented as a similarly enticing proposition for job-hungry municipalities. It is supposed to create as many as 50,000 jobs paying an average of $100,000, and also produce $5 billion in capital investment in the first 15 years.
As Seattle’s experience demonstrates, these don’t appear to be pie in the sky numbers. Instead, Amazon has a proven track record of doing what every city wants from a leading corporate citizen — it creates good jobs that are filled by people who pay their taxes and it injects money into the area, which in turn creates jobs at the companies that provide the services that Amazon and its employees need. Sure, there might be some drawbacks — Seattle real estate has become pretty expensive — but most cities would gladly accept that problem in order to tap into the Amazon river of tax revenue.
Amazon has released a list of detailed criteria that will be applied in its search for the right location for HQ2. It’s looking for a metropolitan area of at least 1 million people, close to an international airport, with good roads, schools, and mass transit. Oh, and it also needs up to 8 million square feet of office space. And the modern world being what it is, we can expect Amazon to look for competing cities to produce packages of tax incentives, tax deferrals, and available development funds designed to entice Amazon as it makes its choice.
Columbus, where several Amazon data and distribution centers have located in recent years, is expected to compete for the prize, and Richard has written about San Antonio’s hope that it wins the crown. We can expect the big boys, like Chicago and Dallas, to put in significant bids, and struggling cities like Detroit would no doubt see the Amazon initiative as a chance to really turn things around. And don’t forget that Canada is part of North America; Toronto is said to be interested, too. In all, about 50 metropolitan areas meet the 1 million population cut-off and would be in a position to compete for the prize. Bids are due by October 19.
Hey, Amazon! Come to Columbus! You’d like it here!