Who’s getting Amazon’s new HQ? Here are our predictions.

amazon hq2-320x213.jpgLast month, we got the big news: Amazon’s scoping out a second headquarters that could bring $5 billion in new construction and up to 50,000 new jobs.

Since then, cities have been fervently vying for the chance to land “Amazon HQ2,” submitting their bids ahead of the October 19th deadline set by the company.

So what’s in it for cities willing to offer up tax incentives, relocation subsidies, donated land, and more—like renaming themselves Amazon? If the past is any indicator, Amazon HQ2 could be a success story similar to Seattle’s, where the company has generated an estimated $38 billion in indirect investment between 2010 and 2016.

Could your city be the lucky one to land HQ2? Let’s take a look at who’s got the best shot, who’s in the running, and who may ultimately win.

On Amazon’s wish list:

Here’s what Amazon’s looking for, according to the Wall Street Journal:

  • A metropolitan site that’s home to more than a million people
  • A location within 45 minutes of an international airport
  • Access to a strong university system

Who’s got the best shot?

Let’s take a look at Amazon’s criteria and narrow things down. We looked at the 2016 US Census population estimates for major metropolitan areas, as well as the top US airports. (Metro areas that tick both check marks also tend to have strong university systems.)

Here are the metro areas that have both major populations and major air traffic:

  • New York City - Newark - Jersey City (20.1 million)
  • Los Angeles - Long Beach - Anaheim (13.3 million)
  • Chicago - Naperville - Elgin (9.5 million)
  • Dallas - Fort Worth - Arlington (7.2 million)
  • Houston - The Woodlands - Sugar Land (6.77 million)
  • Washington - Arlington - Alexandria (6.1 million)
  • Philadelphia - Camden - Wilmington (6 million)
  • Miami - Fort Lauderdale - West Palm Beach (6 million)
  • Atlanta - Sandy Springs - Roswell (5.8 million)
  • Boston - Cambridge - Newton (4.8 million)
  • San Francisco - Oakland - Hayward (4.7 million)
  • Phoenix - Mesa - Scottsdale (4.6 million)
  • Detroit - Warren - Dearborn (4.2 million)
  • Minneapolis - St. Paul - Bloomington (3.5 million)
  • San Diego - Carlsbad (3.3 million)
  • Tampa - St. Petersburg - Clearwater (3 million)
  • Denver - Aurora - Lakewood (2.8 million)
  • Charlotte - Concord - Gastonia (2.47 million)
  • Orlando - Kissimmee - Sanford (2.4 million)
  • Portland - Vancouver - Hillsboro (2.4 million)
  • Las Vegas - Henderson - Paradise, NV (2.1 million)
  • San Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa Clara (1.9 million)
  • Raleigh (1.3 million)
  • Salt Lake City (1.1 million)

Most of these metros have already indicated that they’ll be bidding, and Business Insider has compiled a list of 50 known contenders.

Who are the most tech-friendly front-runners?

Cushman & Wakefield recently came out with their Tech Cities 1.0 report, which calls out some of the most promising tech markets in the nation. A part of what sets these tech cities apart is what Cushman & Wakefield calls their unique “tech stew”— a special blend of higher education, venture capital, tech and knowledge workers, educated workers, and growth entrepreneurship.

Using their research, let’s narrow things down a little further. Of our initial list of metro areas, here’s who makes the cut as the most tech-friendly:

  • San Jose - Sunnyvale - Santa Clara (1.9 million)
  • San Francisco - Oakland - Hayward (4.7 million)
  • Washington - Arlington - Alexandria (6.1 million)
  • Boston - Cambridge - Newton (4.8 million)
  • Raleigh (1.3 million)
  • Denver - Aurora - Lakewood (2.8 million)
  • San Diego - Carlsbad (3.3 million)
  • Minneapolis - St. Paul - Bloomington (3.5 million)
  • Portland - Vancouver - Hillsboro (2.4 million)
  • New York City - Newark - Jersey City (20.1 million)
  • Chicago - Naperville - Elgin (9.5 million)
  • Atlanta - Sandy Springs - Roswell (5.8 million)
  • Los Angeles - Long Beach - Anaheim (13.3 million)
  • Dallas - Fort Worth - Arlington (7.2 million)
  • Salt Lake City (1.1 million)

The above metro areas have also made it into Anderson Economic Group’s HQ2 Index, one attempt at determining who may be at the top of Amazon’s list. Their HQ2 Index lists New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Atlanta as top contenders—and cities like San Jose, Kansas City, Sacramento, Detroit, and Orlando closer to the bottom.

Of course, there’s no way to know (yet) what these cities will be offering to Amazon, and whose perks will ultimately be most persuasive.

From our vantage point, however, the contenders above have the best shot based on Amazon’s stated preferences and Cushman & Wakefield’s assessment of each city's tech friendliness. At this point, the strength of their proposals will be what ultimately sets them apart—and we’ll have to wait a little for that final reveal.


One final curveball

There is one final curveball to consider: international contenders. After all, Amazon is looking for its second North American (not necessarily US) headquarters, which puts Canadian and Mexican cities in the race.

So far, Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Calgary are all throwing their hats into the ring. And they could have one major advantage over US contenders: a more liberal immigration policy.

Tech companies in the US have argued against more conservative immigration laws, which they say prevents them from finding and hiring top talent worldwide. As Ottawa mayor Jim Watson related to the New York Times, “Amazon has something like 9,000 engineering jobs they can’t fill. [Canada’s] immigration policy is much more liberal. That’s where we have an advantage."


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Topics: Industry News