Having received proposals from 238 suitors, including a Bay Area Council-led bid which combined Concord, Fremont, Oakland, Richmond and San Francisco, Amazon has just released its short-list of 20 cities that are still in the running to land the behemoth’s second North American headquarters, a full equal to their current campus in Seattle, dubbed “HQ2.”

The 20 cities moving on the second round, which doesn’t include the aforementioned Bay Area coalition:

  1. Atlanta, GA
  2. Austin, TX
  3. Boston, MA
  4. Chicago, IL
  5. Columbus, OH
  6. Dallas, TX
  7. Denver, CO
  8. Indianapolis, IN
  9. Los Angeles, CA
  10. Miami, FL
  11. Montgomery County, MD
  12. Nashville, TN
  13. Newark, NJ
  14. New York City, NY
  15. Northern Virginia, VA
  16. Philadelphia, PA
  17. Pittsburgh, PA
  18. Raleigh, NC
  19. Toronto, ON
  20. Washington D.C.

A key criteria for the $5 billion development is “the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent” and Amazon is planning to announce a winner by the end of this year.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Dubs

    Given that the DMV has 3 of 20 entries, they obviously are exploring that area pretty hard

  2. Posted by Everest

    I’m guessing Atlanta, Dallas or Austin.

    • Posted by Tim E

      Dallas offers a hub airport, same time zone as most of Mexico & good chunk of Canada and connections to south of the border market that might give an edge if Amazon is truly looking at NA HQ followed by Atlanta a strong second.

      The wild card in my opinion does Amazon want to be close to DC? Does Amazon see a play on the government budget that spends far and above anyone else in the world? Plus VA gov went solidly democratic on last election & might play well to a company that is based in a more progressive state.

  3. Posted by Dave

    Ouch – LA made the final cut and San Francisco did not. This is not a surprise. It has much more going for it than does the Bay Area as a business/jobs center – including more affordable housing and an emerging world class public transportation system.

    Though LA is going through a massive renaissance it won’t get HQ2. Most likely HQ2 will go to a Texas, Florida or Tennessee – states with no income tax, low business taxes and very affordable housing.

    • Posted by Anon123

      Not a surprise that Bay Area didn’t make the cut due to the high cost of living in the area – the Amazon jobs wouldn’t be able to attract the best talent in the area. Same for Portland, which has the added burden of being to close to Seattle.

      Surprising to me that LA beat out San Diego and Irvine for a California bid. Also surprising that Boston and New York are still on the list with their high cost.

      • Posted by Dave

        It’s difficult to attract top talent to the Bay Area because of costs which – attracting talent – is a top priority for Amazon in the location they choose for HQ2. LA is just such a massive city with better public transportation than SD and a cache. LA over SD is no surprise. Boston is pricey but techies love it. It has a great talent pool and don’t forget – it has replaced SSF as the bio-tech center of the US. Portland’s cost of living is significantly less than that of Seattle. It wasn’t chosen for other reasons including being so close to Seattle and the fact that a seismic/volcanic event could cripple both cities at the same time. Plus the cities are merging into a mega-metroplex and are essentially going to be a single entity over time.

        This should be a wake up call to the Bay Area, it is losing out to other metros as a business/tech center and will continue to do so unless critical quality of life issues are addressed in a serious way. It was nice of the Bay Area Council to put the bid together but their real efforts should be at tackling the issues that are making the Bay Area so unattractive for businesses and for workers.

        • Posted by SFRealist

          The Bay Area has the best economy in America. SF’s unemployment rate is under 3%.

          Amazon would be crazy to locate here, because they would have to compete with all the other high paying tech companies here for employees.

          • Posted by Mark

            Low unemployment and best economy, but the highest cost of living. Hmmn…

            Few of the Amazon jobs would be in direct competition with the tech sector. If anything, it would add more middle class jobs, but the Bay Area can’t support middle class jobs.

        • Posted by Anon123

          It’s difficult to attract top talent to the Bay Area? Not! The top techies are flocking to the bay area, which is the main reason that everything has gotten so expensive.

        • Posted by cleverpunhere

          It seems to me that this should be more of a wake up call to the Seattle area than to the Bay Area. Nobody really expected Amazon to come here–the competition for talent is too fierce.

          Also, Seattle and Portland are a very long way from merging into a “metroplex.” There is a whole lot of nothing between Olympia and Portland, and it seems likely to remain that way.

        • Posted by Matt M

          Dave – What would you have SF and the Bay Area do? You consistently point out everything going wrong. What’s going right?

          • Posted by Dave

            The problem/issue is a misdistribution of jobs and housing in the Bay Area. Leading to directly related issues such as unaffordable housing and worsening transportation. A failure to build a seamless public transportation system as LA is doing is a contributor to these issues also.

            A regional approach is needed to solve these problems. The basis should be encouraging many “urban cores” throughout the region as one finds in LA, Washington DC (where such have built up around their rapidly extending metro system), Seattle and other metros.

            Translated the above means a regional approach to directing where future job/office growth is encouraged and where it is discouraged. Basically a massive expansion of the Oakland CBD should be a top priority along with major office expansion in the Tri-Valley area and south of San Jose. Projects like Baylands and the office portion of the Central SOMA plan should be prohibited. Housing will naturally follow a shift of jobs to the East Bay and south SCC areas. Taking pressure off housing prices and eliminating the need for a second BART tube (which isn’t going to happen anyway). SF and San Mateo counties should be required to focus on housing. The El Camino stretch from Colma to Burlingame is mostly parking lots and old 2 story commercial buildings. Building that out at 10 or 12 stories could yield tens of thousands of housing units. Eliminate the office component from HP/CP in favor of all housing.

            Regional transportation must be greatly integrated and boondoggle projects like HSR up the Peninsula to the TTC stopped. Speaking of which, the emerging vision for a West Coast HSR will dictate the terminus go to Oakland and not SF. Imagine a Union Station type of urban core in Oakland similar to what is emerging in LA and now Portland. The UPSP site in Portend is the center of what will be their HSR station and around which ten million or more feet of office space and thousands of housing units could be emerging in the coming 10 or 15 years. .

            The problem is obvious and so is the solution. Does the Bay Area have the will and vision to see this and act accordingly.

          • Posted by Notcom

            Now that’s just crazy talk. Does the “Bay Area” have will and vision – translated as “will SF give up it’s lock on front office jobs?” The answer came below, in the apparently not-facetious – or at least not entirely facetious – remark that “Seattle is basically a suburb of the Bay Area” Yes…Seattle! Jake trained his disciples well.

          • Posted by Dave

            @Notcom SF will not voluntarily give up its lock on front office jobs and that parochial attitude is hurting not just the Bay Area as a whole but also SF.

            HSR up the Peninsula was a totally SF centric move forced on the Bay Area as a whole. But the HSR thing is changing now with talk of a West Coast system from SD to Seattle and possibly onto Vancouver.

            If it moves forward HSR will go to Oakland as the through run to Portland is easily facilitated with an Oakland terminus but the TTC? They’d have to tunnel under the Bay to connect with HSR trains from the NW. It is cost prohibitive and impractical. When that time comes you will see a large shift of front office jobs to Oakland.

          • Posted by Notcom

            “[C]ost prohibitive and impractical” could describe HSR in general…at least in this state. But now back to the topic at hand: the nineteen cities who will soon realize just how lucky they really were.

          • Posted by SFRealist

            San Francisco unemployment rate is 2.3%. Hard to see exactly how it’s being injured by its policies at the moment.

          • Posted by Anon123

            On HSR – if in the distant future it is going to be connected to the NW it would likely be by an extension from Sacramento up through the relatively flat valleys. But there isn’t anything to connect at this time – on either end.

          • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

            The NYT ran an update on California HSR today and it’s not looking like we’ll get anything even like what was promised to voters in 2008:

            “This week a consultant to the authority reported that the cost of the first segment under construction, a 119-mile span in the Central Valley, has risen to $84 million per mile from $66 million per mile.”

            Assuming no further escalation in costs (hah!), running Dave’s hypothetical route from San Diego to Seattle would cost, what, north of $100 billion in 2017 dollars.

          • Posted by Notcom

            It’s challenging terrain – plowed fields, gopher holes, puddles…occasionally – once they’re into the mountains the dollars will fly by !! Oh, did I say “dollars”?? I meant “miles, the miles will fly by…

    • Posted by Aerel

      It’s surprising to me the Bay Area put in the bid in the first place. Amazon already has thousands of jobs in the Bay Area. According to Amazon Jobs, they currently have 873 Bay Area job openings across a dozen product teams here. Why would they double down on the same place? It seems like they’re trying to find a place with new tech capacity.

      • Posted by Martin

        I was going to say the same thing. Amazon already develops these products in SF Bay:
        * Alexa / Echo
        * GoodReads
        * Amazon Music
        * FireTV

        Business guys are in Seattle along with AWS crew. All these are highly competitive products, and anyone working on these would rather go to a different Bay Area company rather than move out of SF.

    • Posted by cfb

      LA does not have more going for it in terms of jobs and public transportation, and it’s also not hard to attract talent to the bay.

      • Posted by jimbo

        public transport is certainly better in LA than SF

  4. Posted by Pero

    C’mon, there is a serious shortlist of 2-5 cities (probably Austin, Atlanta, Boston, Toronto, DC Area) and the rest is filler for political reasons/geographic representation. Now, they are looking for who wants to be the Wisconsin to Amazon’s Foxconn.

    • Posted by Anonymous

      I pretty much agree with this list. Might add Chicago to it as well.

    • Posted by Wayne

      Toronto won’t be chosen. Being in Canada, no incentives and winter are going to knock it out

  5. Posted by anon from Indy

    Indianapolis has a their old airport potentially to offer Amazon. They built a mostly new one about a decade ago and the old facilities are sitting idle. Though who knows how much Amazon might value a private airport ? Cheap housing. Public transit is pretty poor. Economy is pretty decent as well as universities and education opportunity. That said, I am thinking the DC area ultimately.

    • Posted by Dubs

      I think you can eliminate Indy, Pittsburg and Columbus pretty easily. None have airline hubs (austin doesn’t either, but) Columbus and Indy won’t be able to attract talent, especially with the laws the Pence legacy has left them.

      • Posted by eugene

        Pittsburgh’s airport is old (90s?), but was built as the hub for the former US Airways (as a younger self, I remember lots of non-stop flights to Europe from there) — while not a hub, it has capacity to grow. PGH also has the benefit of low-cost housing, hipster cred, Carnegie Mellon, UPMC health system, lots of vacant land from the old factory sites downtown and PA’s willingness to shell out tax breaks. My top five in no order would be Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philly, Dallas, Nashville.

        • Posted by SFRealist

          Idle speculation, but I agree on Pittsburgh. Fairly low cost of living, strong tech workforce, central location to midwest/northeast, easy to attract top talent.

      • Posted by curmudgeon

        Columbus is in Ohio, not Indiana.

        • Posted by Dubs

          I know?

          • Posted by Notcom

            His remark was in reference to yours:
            “Columbus … won’t be able to attract talent, especially with the laws the Pence legacy has left them”; unless of course you meant that the “Pence legacy” crossed statelines.

        • Posted by jwb

          There is *a* Columbus in Indiana. Nice town, too.

      • Posted by SFRealist

        I’d agree on Indy, if Pence’s anti-gay laws are still in place. No way Amazon would choose to go there.

        • Posted by Chris

          The anti-gay laws were amended almost as soon as they were passed because of all the push back. That is the reason why Salesforce went ahead with a major office expansion there.

          Indianapolis as a city has had a strong anti-discrimination ordinance to protect LGBTQ people for several years.

          Columbus, IN is a very progressive small city and has a world-famous collection of modern architecture. It is the headquarters cities for Cummins which attracts a diverse and highly educated workforce.

          That said, Amazon’s short-list is for Columbus, OH, not Columbus, IN. Columbus, OH is very similar to Indianapolis in size and demographics, and it is also located very close to Indianapolis.

  6. Posted by Amewsed

    Since the ability to attract tech talent is the primary objective, I am going to say Austin, TX or NYC. I haven’t been to Austin (only Dallas) so I am leaning toward NYC. The talent will go where there is existing infrastructure, culture, and a well-established pro-business drive.

    • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

      Yeah, but the close-second objective was “…to…retain strong technical talent”. The same factors that would have eliminated San Jose or San Francisco proper would also eliminate New York City because the cost of living is so high there, and so employee turnover would presumably also be high. Availability of technically-skilled residents would probably be lower than compared to those two Bay Area cities.

  7. Posted by Sierrajeff

    Overall this is a big slam on California – and also IMHO Amazon telegraphing that HQ2 is going to be mostly back office; no way they’re going to attract tech and C-level talent to Indianapolis, Nashville, Columbus, etc.

    • Posted by SocketSite

      From Amazon’s RFP: “The Project is expected to create as many as fifty thousand (50,000) new full-time jobs with an average annual compensation exceeding one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) per employee.”

      And the jobs “will likely be broken down into the following categories: executive/management, engineering with a preference for software development engineers (SDE), legal, accounting, and administrative.”

      • Posted by Notcom

        Unclear on how “compensation” is being measured: if it’s $100K base pay (in 2017 dollars), then they’re pretty nice jobs – particularly in the hinterlands; OTOH, if it’s “compensation” as any good HR dept would define it (base PLUS FICA , 401K, benefits,…) and it’s in 2025ish dollars, then we’re looking more at what most people would call $75K jobs…decent but not “C-level”. In other words the “exec…accounting, administrative” would lean more heavily toward the latter than the former.

        But anyway, yes, THANK GOD it’s not going to be here.

        • Posted by anon2.5

          This is a very good point. I suspect it’s the total compensation valuation.

    • Posted by jimbo

      my bet is on Nashville. thats one hot city right now and lots of talent there

  8. Posted by sfcommie

    Thanks God for that. The last thing we need is Amazon moving in. I wish at least one of the bay area FAMGA would follow Amazon’s lead and relocate.

    • Posted by Anonymous

      Except they aren’t relocating. Not sure you understand what they’re actually doing, which is expanding.

      • Posted by Notcom

        I think the Comrade’s point was that they should open a second HQ, rather than continue to flood the Bay Area. And s/he may be getting his/her wish (tho I’m not sure whether that’s the first “A “or the second of FAMGA)

    • Posted by SFRealist

      Not going to happen. Like it or not, the future of the Bay Area will be more of the same.

  9. Posted by Michael

    Top 5 in descending order of likelihood:

    1. Pittsburgh
    2. Newark
    3. Atlanta
    4. Philadelphia
    5. Chicago

    • Posted by jwb

      Why do you think Pittsburgh? Are they trying to select a site that’s equally as dim and overcast as their Seattle HQ?

      • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

        Pittsburgh contains two well regarded universities to seed the local employment pool. It is low cost, has a mature urban environment, and a lively cultural scene. Now if they could just relax their liquor laws a bit.

        • Posted by Wayne

          Indy has IU and PURDUE and to a lesser extent ball state and butler to feed to pool.

        • Posted by jwb

          Those are all reasons why Pittsburgh is a great city, but beside the point for HQ2’s stated requirements. For example Pittsburgh’s airport does not offer direct flights to either San Francisco or Seattle.

        • Posted by jimbo

          nashville has a top 10 university in Vanderbilt, much better than anything pittsburg. its more culturally attractive, and centrally located.

          • Posted by jimbo

            also no state taxes in tenn

  10. Posted by The Hills

    My money is on Toronto. Their immigration laws/visas will allow South Asian tech talent to come (cheaply) work at HQ2.

    • Posted by Sierrajeff

      That’s an excellent observation – a great way for Amazon to hedge its bets against one country’s immigration laws, economy, etc. – all while having great connections to both the U.S. east coast and Europe.

  11. Posted by calledrive

    Wasn’t one of Amazon’s major stipulations that the new campus be located in a different part of the country than Seattle? Seattle is basically a suburb of the Bay Area, so I don’t think it was ever a serious contender.

    They are the new Wal- Mart. They will choose a place based on low taxes and educated workforce. I’d bet on Texas.

    • Posted by Rillion

      Yeah, for all the people slamming the Bay Area on this thread, it is likely nothing in the west was ever in serious contention. I think LA and Denver made the short list just to give some token geographic diversity to the short list and to attempt to leverage those cities against the eventual chosen city for handouts.

  12. Posted by Bobby Mucho

    I’m surprised no one is talking about Denver as a likely option. It’s in a relatively liberal state, with affable tax laws, plenty of room to grow, decent/growing transportation network, near lots of outdoor recreation, and a large international airport. Not to mention a lil tech community less than an hour north, in Boulder.

    I don’t know enough about Toronto but from what I’ve read about the cities growth, interest in transit and quality of life, I’d say it’s viable as well.

  13. Posted by Can't Think of Cool Name

    I always felt that a major driver of which city they would choose could be predicated on how they want to split their headquarters, by job function or by business unit(s). I read the RFP as well, and its vague in this regard.

  14. Posted by Anonymous

    Amazon already has a large and growing presence in the Bay Area which isn’t going to change regardless of where they put “HQ2”, and as such, there was never any solid reasoning or need for the Bay Area to be chosen.

  15. Posted by Tipster

    Apple announced yesterday a second campus OUT of the bay area. The heydey of silicon valley was really great, as great as Detroit in its heyday. I guess it’s the flyover states’ turn.

    • Posted by jwb

      Apple announced a call center for customer support. That is not the kind of job that can be economically located in the Bay Area.

    • Posted by Dave

      It’d be great to see Portland or Seattle get that campus. They are building a massive urban center around the old UPSPS area in Portland which is expected to attract some tech headquarters or HQ2s.. It will not be just a call center as someone opined.

      You are correct that the heyday of the Silicon Valley is over. it will remain the number one tech center for the next decades but relatively less so as time goes on and places like Austin and Seattle continue to outgrow the Bay Area in terms of population and jobs.

      • Posted by 101

        Look for a Mid West City to be chosen, IMO.

      • Posted by cleverpunhere

        This entire article is about a Seattle based company that is looking to move its growth out of the Seattle area.

  16. Posted by AlamedaRenter

    It will be Denver.

    Not sure why most folks are leaving them off their list.

    • Posted by Anon123

      I don’t think that it will be Denver, but only thing that matters is what Amazon thinks.

      I could see them choosing an East-coast location to open up to more European markets/recruiting, or a Texas/Atlanta location for Latin markets and/or recruiting. Would be very surprised if they choose a rust belt location. Not going to be around here so whatever.

      • Posted by Dr. House

        Yeah, agree on the rust belt shortlist spots seeming odd when you could have Atlanta, Dallas, LA, or even Denver. On the other hand, Bezos is no dummy. He knows Trump would be happy to talk his enablers in Congress into rewarding his marks in one of those areas a big federal grant to subsidize such a move. An Ohio office would be far less useful, but Amazon may be able to get it basically for free so I think they’re keeping it on the table just in case they can secure a huge corporate welfare payday. Of course, that might end up being a total impossibility if 2018 and 2020 both go poorly for that party, but hey nobody though 2016 would go well for them either so… keeping their options open seems smart.

  17. Posted by presidio heights girl

    I recently went to Austin and was surprised by the large number of tech companies with secondary campus’ there like Facebook, Apple and Google. I can see Austin being desirable to Amazon as they are def building-up the infrastructure with housing & tax incentives to be SV2.

    • Posted by jwb

      Ironically, the main function of Google’s Austin office appears to be to funnel software engineers into their other offices. As you can see by their job listings, they are hiring recruiters in Austin. Also sales, of course.

  18. Posted by EBGuy

    I wonder if locating near a university with 66,000 students would be a good idea? Now where’s their midwestern data center located?

  19. Posted by Pablito

    I’m betting Raleigh, NC as first pick with Austin, TX as my back-up….

  20. Posted by Um Actually

    Airplanes are mobile. The airlines will adjust the routes to meet Amazon’s demand. The *present* lack of routes is a non-issue, and the Pittsburgh Airport’s significant capacity is actually a plus, IMO.

    • Posted by ijustworkhere

      Of course airlines will add enough capacity to service increase demand, but they’re not going to move one of their existing hubs because of 50,000 workers. American Airlines has, for example, 9 hubs for 160 million workers.

      Airlines use hub and spoke routing, which means that travel between two non-hubs requires a connecting flight, and travel to anything far away requires a connecting flight. No hub means no direct flights between most cities, as well as higher travel costs. And really you don’t want just one airline to have a hub at your airport, you’d like 3 or more, to get competitive rates, and major airlines, not regional carriers like PenAir at Portland. It would take 20 Amazon relocations to change the economics and get a major airline to move a hub to a city that currently doesn’t have one (taking a hub away from a city that does).

      • Posted by cleverpunhere

        You need a lot more than just one company to justify a full network of direct flights from an airport. If this wasn’t the case then SeaTac would have become a major hub to accomodate Boeing. Instead, Boeing moved its headquarters to Chicago.

  21. Posted by hundoman

    Why would Amazon create a new HQ campus in a high tax, high housing cost blue state … that doesn’t help out any of the new locations prospective employees in the least as they already have that problem in Seattle, WA. #BlueStateProblems

    • Posted by Dave

      Seattle is 35% cheaper cost of living-wise than San Francisco. it is not your typical blue state in that regard. Washington has no state income tax and it’s likely a city in one of the 3 states on the list with no income tax will get the nod.

      • Posted by Dr. House

        Serious question: How does having no state income tax really help persuade Amazon? If they were hoping to entice lots of people to move from other places INTO the HQ2 state then I guess, but presumably the plan is to just hire the people already there who already either are or are not having to pay state income tax so it wouldn’t really factor into their decision to accept an Amazon job offer and salary.

        Income tax is paid by the employees, isn’t it? Is there an employer share I don’t know about? I was under the impression that the payroll taxes employers have to pay were primarily federal ones (besides that SF one! 😉

        Also, “no income tax” looks great on a brochure for why you should want to move to Florida or whatever, but of course, the crap that needs paying for just has to be paid for via property tax or sales tax that are higher than they could be if there was an income tax. So, does anyone really get fooled by this gimmick? I know I wouldn’t, knowing that the sales tax and property tax are much more regressive compared to progressive income tax rates.

  22. Posted by J L

    Chicago. Two top tier schools (Northwestern and University of Chicago) while being close to one of the top computer engineering schools (University of Illinois.)

    Chicago also has two airports with hundreds of daily nonstop flights; basically anywhere Amazon employees need to go. They have a well maintained rapid transit system that serves both airports; one of them for 24 Hours daily.

    Employees can easily find housing as there is no major housing shortage there. There is several different options that Amazon can choose from, all “shovel ready;” with “move in ready” options until their offices are built out. The city and state have offered unbelievable tax breaks. It’s also the third largest metro in the country and doesn’t suffer from the effects of earthquakes or violent climate driven disasters.

    If there are doubts about the strength of Chicago’s offering- many companies have moved their corporate headquarters there in the last few decades- Boeing, Caterpillar, McDonalds, Motorola. Don’t let the media fool you, the vast majority of crime happens away from the sides of town where companies and the middle & creative class lives. I never had a murder on my block in Chicago; but there’s been three people shot near my house on Twin Peaks in two years;

    Other than Chicago, I’d say Pittsburgh has the next best chance given the existence of Carnegie-Mellon, and UBER’s autonomous vehicle test track. Good things are happening there.

    Disclaimer- I moved to Chicago in 2009; and found a large studio apartment in Boystown, a few blocks over from Wrigley. Rent was $750. Only moved two miles North because I wanted more space. A two bed, two bath condo with parking and laundry in unit in Edgewater for $1250 (with 24 hour train service nearby and a 5 minute walk to the beaches of Lake Michigan!) As a born/raised Midwesterner, on Chicago’s chances of seeing that signature Amazonian smile, I’d say the major drawback would be the cold.

    • Posted by Anon123

      Good review of Chicago’s attributes – I was thinking the winters would be the major draw back.

      It is centrally located in the US, but does not work as well as a gateway to other continents – it really depends on the strategic planning at Amazon, the reason I never thought that another West Coast location was an option.

    • Posted by Brahma (incensed renter)

      With respect to The City of Chicago and The State of Illinois “…offer[ing] unbelievable tax breaks”, I’d point out that that The State of Missouri, which pursued its own bid for Amazon’s HQ2 independently of those submitted by Kansas City and St. Louis, offered up more than $2.4 billion worth of incentives and still did not make the final cut. I agree with “Pero”, above that there’s probably about five area seriously in the running. The rest are there for window dressing and possibly to play one set of offers/tax incentives/etc against the others.

      • Posted by Anon123

        I would amend the “Pero” list by striking out Toronto and insert Chicago or Newark 🙂

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