In the race for Amazon's second headquarters, there are no losers.
Although 218 cities failed to make the final cut to host the e-commerce giant's second headquarters this month, analysts suggest the cities themselves may prosper from having thrown their hats into the ring. As Amazon potentially considers setting up new warehouses and distribution centers in the coming years, these cities may resurface--ushering in a bevy of new jobs in the process. To wit, just around 40,000 of the company's total 540,000 global employees work from the company's current Seattle headquarters, with many working from the more than 300 warehouses and shipping centers that Amazon operates across the U.S.
That point was echoed in a recent statement from Amazon's head of economic development, Holly Sullivan: "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." Among other examples, CEO Jeff Bezos' interest was reportedly piqued by a local initiative in Kansas City, Missouri that helps military veterans transition to civilian jobs. Similarly, Montreal's emphasis on attracting foreign talent through the region also drew interest, the New York Times reported this weekend. (Neither of these cities made the top 20.) Denver, meanwhile, provided an elaborate breakdown of the number of students who graduated with technical degrees in Colorado between 2014 and 2016, in its bid that has been made publicly available.
Amazon too has benefited from the municipal-level data it has collected on infrastructure, talent and local initiatives proffered by the participating cities. During the process that began last September, Amazon has received a flurry of positive press, while bolstering relationships with economic development centers across the country. In the meantime, these centers have shed light on just how far some communities are willing to go to support Amazon: The city of Detroit, for instance, offered to let the company operate for as many as 30 years without paying real estate, personal property and a variety of other local taxes, according to several reports.
Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, Matt McIlwain is hardly surprised by Amazon's employ of city-specific data. The Seattle-based investor with Madrona Ventures meets frequently with executives at Amazon. He has long suspected that the company's hunt for a second headquarters might have dual goals. "There's a question of cooperativeness with local governments," McIlwain told Inc. in January, referring to the project called HQ2. Now, thanks to the troves of data the company has collected from metro regions across the country, "There's a lot more hope there could be a better long-term relationship with Amazon," McIlwain said.
Others say the data game isn't over, and that the final 20 cities are likely still being squeezed for information. Jeremy Bodenhamer, the founder of a Santa Barbara, California-based logistics company, ShipHawk, who is somewhat familiar with the company's thinking, anticipates that negotiations are underway: "By keeping L.A., New York and D.C. on the list, those places will have a lot of benefits that they can toss around and take back to Atlanta and Austin and get [things like] tax breaks," he said.
Madrona Venture's McIlwain, for his part, is still convinced that Amazon won't pick any one location for its next headquarters. "My provocative point of view is that they don't pick one HQ2 and decide to have 3 or 4 'Centers of Excellence," he added. "I still contend that is the most logical thing for them to do."