Atlanta has the best odds of being selected to host Amazon's second headquarters, according to new research published this week. The demographic data firm Sperling's BestPlaces based its predictions on factors including cost of living, access to transportation, infrastructure, and education, updating its analysis as the e-commerce giant continues to tease new information about the massive project called HQ2.
"Experts are clearly favoring Atlanta," noted Bert Sperling, the firm's founder and CEO, in a recent statement, nodding to the city's comparatively low cost of living, international air hub and potential ability to absorb tens of thousands of new workers. While he added that Boston and Chicago are close behind, Amazon may very well make an unexpected pick for their new HQ2.
It's not surprising that as many as 238 cities submitted formal bids to the company, with some metro areas going so far as to offer elaborate gifts--and, in the case of Stonecrest, Georgia, to rename itself "Amazon." The company has said the headquarters will bring more than 50,000 high-paying jobs, and an investment of more than $5 billion. Last week, it unveiled a list of 20 finalist cities that included Atlanta.
Analysts note the benefits are likely to extend well beyond the office. "The corporation will influence and trickle all the way down to the local coffee shop and local government," suggested Jeff Holdman, general manager at the New York-based real estate investment firm Intoo, in a phone call with Inc. last week. "Amazon is a shining example of how the economics of this country actually work."
Of course, Atlanta is attractive for a number of reasons. The city is already a known
logistics hub; UPS has its headquarters there, for instance. There are also droves of young, technical talent stemming from Atlanta-area schools including Emory and Georgia Tech. Matt McIlwain, the managing director at Seattle-based investment firm Madrona Ventures, further suggests the city's overall attitude is in line with how the company operates: "It has a very can-do, growth-oriented attitude, which aligns with the Amazon culture," he says.
To be sure, no one place has everything Amazon has said it wants: a steady stream of technical talent, access to mass transit, and an international airport, among many other factors outlined last September. As Sperling puts it: "Finding a metropolitan area that meets all [the] criteria is not only difficult, but impossible."
For his part, McIlwain suggests the company won't choose one city but rather spread its bets across multiple. "I would not be surprised at all if they choose to focus on 10,000 to 15,000 folks per city and pick some centers of excellence," McIllwain tells Inc.