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These geeks are looking for a second home. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

It’s down to the final four: Cincinnati, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Raleigh.

Team GeekWire has been poring over submissions from cities all over the country eager to host GeekWire HQ2 for the month of February 2018. We’ll be establishing a temporary second headquarters in the chosen city, sending our rain-soaked Seattle-based reporters to cover a community’s technology scene, including its challenges and opportunities, innovations, leaders and its outlook on the future.

It’s going to be a fun adventure, whether we end up in the Rust Belt, Rocky Mountains or Research Triangle. But narrowing the field to these four candidates hasn’t been easy, and frankly, we need your input as we pick the winner of this illustrious competition.

In an intense staff meeting Monday, we debated the positives and negatives of the four finalists — asking key questions about transportation; cultural activities, community engagement and, of course, the strength of the tech sector. We also wondered if weather wimp staffers will be able survive a sub-zero winter day in Pittsburgh or generous helpings of Carolina BBQ.

After a 45 minute debate, we couldn’t decide.

That’s why we’re now enlisting our faithful GeekWire readers to help us make our final decision, before the official announcement next month. You’ll be experiencing this adventure with us, so we’ll give strong consideration to the vote as we determine our destination.

Cast your vote above to tell us which city you think should win. Not sure who makes the best GeekWire HQ2 candidate? Continue reading for highlights from each finalist’s proposal and see this earlier post to check out all of the cities who responded to our Request for Proposals (RFP).

Cincinnati

Home to the headquarters of Kroger Co. and P&G, as well as an emerging startup scene, Cincinnati, Ohio, pitched GeekWire on the potential for great tech stories and low cost of living. Queen City’s fastest-growing companies are in logistics and transportation, financial services, construction, insurance, engineering, advertising and marketing, and health.

Fiona the hippo.

The proposal came from Cintrifuse, a public-private partnership that aims to build out the city’s tech economy. This proposal definitely wins the most cute points, for including Fiona, a hippo who was born six weeks early and captured the hearts of locals by overcoming early struggles. Fiona is so beloved that she has become the namesake for a specialty beer, a brand of cookies, and a children’s book. We can already imagine ourselves sipping Hippo-themed beers on the banks of the Ohio River, gobbling up bowls of delicious five-way Cincinnati Chili. Plus, GeekWire co-founder John Cook hails from the Buckeye state, so it can’t be that bad, can it?

Denver

The Denver skyline. (Wikimedia Photo)

Much of what we love about Seattle, home to GeekWire HQ1, can also be found in Denver, Colo. — from mountain vistas and a love of the outdoors to legal cannabis. Denver, and its nearby sister city Boulder, are home to tech companies big and small, including Galvanize, Stack Overflow, and Craftsy. The city’s tech scene even has its own lingo: a group of entrepreneurs calls their growing startups the “Denver Gazelles,” presumably taking a more modest monicker than the billion-dollar private companies that call themselves unicorns. With an easy flight from Seattle, an emerging tech scene and a Western sensibility, Denver has a lot to offer.

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh skyline and Roberto Clemente Bridge. (Shutterstock Photo)

Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science submitted a proposal on behalf of Pittsburgh, touting factors including the city’s renaissance as a tech hub, satellite offices of big tech companies, and pioneering of autonomous vehicles. Those are just a few examples that show that Steel City — the so-called “Paris of Appalachia” — is emerging as a worthy contender in the technology and engineering industries. Pittsburgh’s historic cultural institutions and parks feature in the proposal, as does the natural landscape of rivers and hills. But then there’s the weather — a bone-chilling average low temperature of 22 degrees in February. (Interestingly, Pittsburgh has the same dismal amount of sun in February as Seattle — just 109 hours). Authors of the proposal did not ignore that factor, writing: “Parachute into Pittsburgh in the middle of winter? Of course!” Many on the GeekWire team also think Pittsburgh has a good shot at Amazon’s much bolder HQ2 plan, which played into our discussion.

Raleigh

The Raleigh skyline.

Raleigh, North Carolina didn’t get as much discussion during our staff meeting, but this dark horse candidate is certainly known worldwide for a strong mix of universities: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Duke, and North Carolina State. Beyond the cutting-edge research going on at those institutions, companies such as Citrix and Red Hat also call Raleigh home, and they are investing millions in a $1.1 billion effort to transform the city’s downtown business district. With more than 500 startups and 14 accelerators, there’s plenty of interesting action to cover in the Tar Heel state. Unlike Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, Raleigh boasts an easy direct flight from Seattle. It ranks just behind behind Denver in terms of hours of sunshine in February (174 hours), and we’re told they know a thing or two about good barbecue down south!

Cast your vote above, read more about GeekWire HQ2 here, and stay tuned for the announcement of our final selection in December.

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