The quest to become the city that hosts Amazon's second headquarters consumed 238 cities. Minutes ago, Amazon revealed the list of 20 finalists. And the choices say a lot about the company, and about America.

Here's the list:

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Austin, TX
  • Boston, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Columbus, OH
  • Dallas, TX
  • Denver, CO
  • Indianapolis
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Montgomery County, Md.
  • Nashville
  • New York City
  • Newark, N.J.
  • Northern Virginia
  • Philadelphia 
  • Pittsburgh
  • Raleigh, N.C.
  • Toronto
  • Washington, D.C.

"Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough -- all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity," Holly Sullivan, Amazon's head of economic development, told The New York Times. "Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation."

According to the Times, "a team of about a dozen people within Amazon" were involved in the search. Perhaps not surprisingly, "Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive who was the mastermind behind turning the search into a public process and coined the term 'HQ2,' was also involved, the people said."

What does a quick look at the choices tell us? Partly, it confirms what Amazon largely said it was looking for: Places where people want to live, with educated workforces, and solid transportation systems. Here are 5 big takeaways about the finalists:

The dark horses

I was literally riding a commuter train through Newark when this was announced. Even in the quiet car on New Jersey Transit, there was an audible murmur as several people on my train got the alert on their phones at the same time. (I guess $7 billion in tax incentives didn't hurt.) Congrats also to Raleigh, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Miami.

From Back Bay to Union Station

The Acela corridor dominates, with basically every big stop on Amtrak from DC to Boston making the list. That's seven out of the 20--and Los Angeles was the only city on the west coast. (It kind of makes you feel for Baltimore and my home state of Rhode Island however, which are on the Acela line, put in bids, and came up short.) 

Time to fix the Metro?

The Washington, D.C. area wins big, with the District itself, and surrounding areas of Maryland and Virginia that contain its biggest suburbs all making the list. Does the fact that Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post have anything to do with this?

Billions of dollars helped

We don't know the details of every city's bid of course, but besides Newark, many of the cities that made the list promised billions of dollars in tax incentives and other economic preferences. It's hard to compete with that.

Are Amazon's colors really blue and purple?

A quick look at the list shows a prevalence of so-called blue and purple states, politically speaking--and certainly more liberal-leaning cities. There are exceptions: Indianapolis and Dallas for example. But the recent tax bill that heavily favors red states at the expense of blue states doesn't appear to have impacted Amazon's decision-making. 

Heck, even Toronto made the list. Interestingly, the biggest, second-biggest, third-biggest, and fifth-biggest cities in the U.S. all made the list (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia). What's the #4 city that applied but didn't make it? The only one in a red state: Houston, Texas.

 

 

Published on: Jan 18, 2018
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.