Where Will Amazon Open Its Second HQ?

At RealClearMarkets Allan Golombek considers the criteria Amazon says it will use in determining where it will open its new joint headquarters:

Anyone looking for proof of the overwhelming importance of human talent in today’s economy should take a glance at the criteria Amazon is using in selecting a site for its new joint corporate headquarters.

Amazon has stated that to be even considered as the home of its second corporate headquarters, a city needs a million-plus metropolitan population, mass transit, a strong higher education system, a large technically fluent workforce, and the ability to attract and retain skilled workers. In other words, they want immediate access to the kind of workforce they need to compete, targeting software development engineers, accountants and administrative personnel, with many of the jobs paying $100,000. Like almost all companies making location decisions these days, Amazon is also looking for financial inducements from government. But while a city may feel it is necessary to offer financial incentives to buy itself a place on the short list, that will probably not be sufficient to leap to the top. Before opening the vault, or deciding how wide to open it, governments should consider that to snag a corporate headquarters and the jobs and prestige that come with it, a city must possess other assets. In a time of growing specialization and deployment of sophisticated technologies, increasingly the most important asset is people.

Understandably, just about every major city is vying for Amazon. If I were Amazon’s management, I’d pick Atlanta.

No city on the West Coast gives Amazon anything they don’t already have. San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. are out. Denver, Phoenix, ditto.

New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington are too expensive. Atlanta has everything Amazon says it’s looking for, reasonably priced housing, a good lifestyle plus the benefit of improved access to Europe, Latin America, and Africa. It’s a good pick.

Update

The New York Times says Denver.

19 comments… add one
  • gray shambler

    San Antonio
    Youthful,educated, growing, near the gulf.

  • Ben Wolf

    Off-topic but cheerful. Maybe. : http://www.bbc.com/news/business-41220948

  • I don’t know enough about Britain’s system to know what’s actually going on. It sounds good but I can’t tell whether “net” means “net of subsidies” or not.

  • bob sykes

    Atlanta lacks the human capital and has bad public schools.

  • Atlanta lacks the human capital

    Not according to a number of the articles I’ve read recently. Apparently, Atlanta is rated pretty highly in terms its technological talent pool.

  • CStanley

    I was thinking schools as a negative for Atlanta too. Then again, does any large metro area have good public schools?

  • CStanley

    Looks like NYT cut Atlanta based on poor mass transit and traffic congestion, which I’d certainly agree with.

  • Shall we make a list of New York’s mass transit problems? +1 for having an extensive mass transit system. -2 for how it’s run.

  • CStanley

    All good mass transit systems resemble one another, each lousy mass transit system is lousy in its own way.

  • Guarneri

    Denver is probably fine. They ought to consider Nashville and even Indianapolis as well. There is plenty of downtown living to be had, a-la Chicago. Each has proved capable of developing or attracting talent. I have relatives in Atlanta who would I disagree with the notion of quality of life. It’s bursting at the seams.

  • CuriousOnlooker

    The bids are open until Oct — nothing has been decided yet.

    Philadelphia is a candidate as the cheapest city in the NE corridor if they need to be in the NE corridor. Austin because Whole Foods is already headquartered there. Atlanta also popped into mind — the fact Altanta is Delta’s main hub and Seattle is Delta’s West Coast hub is a big plus.

    I do wonder if the longer term plan is to split Amazon into multiple companies. The logistical / cultural problems of 2 HQ appear intractable; I cannot think of any government or corporation that successfully have two equal headquarters. If that’s not the plan, we might be approaching some kind of peak hubris.

  • I can’t recall who originally pointed this out—it might well have been Parkinson—but you can mark the beginning of decline in power of any organization by when it begins to build a grand new headquarters.

  • mike shupp

    Dave Schuyler — it’s Parkinson.

    That said … they aren’t contenders, I gather, but I’d be happy to see Amazon considering Cleveland or Cincinnati or Columbus or Dayton, all in Ohio, or Indianapolis or Chicago or Detroit or Pittsburg. Those all were or are the sort of metropolitan areas that are centrally located with reasonably priced housing, universities, libraries, museums, and all the other cultural amenities that we’d like to find in modern urban settings — and they deserve a better break than they’ve been getting for the past 30 years or so.

  • Gray shambler

    Just another move designed to boost share prices. Imo

  • Andy

    Denver is my hometown and I think it will be very competitive for Amazon. Given Amazon’s business model, however, they may want to be in DC so they’re closer to the Washington Bubble and the plutocrats that run the place. After all, Amazon will definitely want to enlist the Feds to keep competitors at bay. So I think DC probably has the edge based on that.

    Anyway, I just spent two weeks in Denver visiting family. Except for a few islands, the city is a stranger to me now. The growth there is huge. The unique mountain west culture from the 80’s and earlier is largely gone or at least subsumed into the new urbanism that makes large cities more alike than different. Money is king and the asshole-to-nice person ratio is becoming more and more unfavorable. All that remains is a love for the outdoors, but the huge increase in population is means there is no peace or solitude to be found in the front range anymore. Skiing used to be a middle-class pastime – now a one day lift ticket costs the same or more as a day at Disneyworld. Not to mention I-70 traffic jams on the weekends(!) rival DC commuter traffic.

    I would not choose to live there anymore. If we end up moving back to Colorado at some point it will either be one of the few affordable mountain towns left (many are in the process of morphing into little Aspens – AirBnB may put the nail in the coffin for those.) or maybe one of the smaller cities along the front range like Colorado Springs or Ft. Collins.

  • Janis Gore

    I have a niece in Greeley, Andy. She seems to like the quality of life there. A PhD middle-school principal.

  • Andy

    Janice,

    Greeley isn’t too bad – I have a couple of cousins there.

  • ” Money is king and the asshole-to-nice person ratio is becoming more and more unfavorable.”

    Isn’t that everywhere?

  • mike shupp

    Andy —

    I spent a year just outside a bit of Woodland Park — about fifteen miles west of Colorado Springs and half a mile higher — about twenty five years ago, and I absolutely loved it. If I could relive my life …

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