Amazon surprised everyone Thursday morning when it announced it is looking to build a second headquarters in a city in North America. The news has big implications for Seattle, Amazon’s home, as well as cities around the country that are already lining up to woo the tech giant.
GeekWire’s John Cook spoke with Seattle’s Morning News on KIRO Radio about the announcement, his take on what it means for Seattle and what cities could be in the running for the new headquarters.
Listen to the segment in the player above, download the MP3 here, and keep reading for a full transcript of their discussion. Also check out our full coverage of the news and reactions from around Seattle here.
And stay tuned for our Friday Week In Geek podcast, where we’ll analyze the news in detail — subscribe to the GeekWire Podcast in Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, or wherever you listen to hear that show.
Colleen O’Brien: Amazon is expanding big time. It’s a headline we’ve seen over and over for the past few years, but this is different. Jeff Bezos made the announcement that they are searching for a spot for a second headquarters. So we called up our friends over at GeekWire: GeekWire co-founder John Cook. Good morning, John.
John Cook: Good morning, thanks for having me.
CO: So what do we know about this second headquarters? How much? Where will it be?
JC: Well we don’t know where it will be, but this is certainly a bombshell news story here and I would say a blow to Seattle to have Jeff Bezos come out today and say that they are choosing their second home somewhere in North America in the next year or so.
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CO: Now why is that a blow to Seattle?
JC: I think it’s a blow because these are potential jobs that could have could have grown here and are in our backyard. I think there are additional opportunities that Amazon could have looked into to expand its workforce in its presence and in the northwest. And I think they feel like they’ve kind of tapped out here in the Seattle area.
Mike Lewis: Well John, when I was reading your story on it, he actually made — his language was fairly clear when he emphasized “as a co-equal” and I think that that’s that speaks to what you’re talking about that he’s making sure that he doesn’t want it to be just a Seattle company.
JC: It’s true and there are other factors here beyond just the Seattle angle, and I think there’s an interesting business case to be made on the idea of having a joint headquarters somewhere else in North America. You know, as we all know in the tech industry, there’s a war for talent going on right now mainly around software developers and engineers but also top executives. And not every software engineer and developer or technology executive wants to move to the Pacific Northwest. And so I do think there is a play here by Amazon to diversify themselves geographically so that they could have a presence — I believe, likely on the East Coast — that will allow it to attract top talent from other markets that they may have a hard time pulling into Seattle even with that.
There were some interesting components of the announcement from Bezos today in which he said engineers, teams of executives or managers will have the choice if they’re now based in Seattle to move to this co-headquarters. So you could see, potentially, some very high net worth individuals, some people with very good jobs in the Seattle area, that decide they don’t want to live here anymore and they want to go to the second headquarters.
CO: And if I could just play devil’s advocate for a second — please push back, but when I hear that a second headquarters elsewhere would be a blow to Seattle in my mind I’m thinking: Well, could we handle another Amazon headquarters? I look at the housing look at the traffic. Look I would think that it would make more sense to say all right you can expand as long as you don’t take any jobs away from Seattle.
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JC: It’s a good point but wouldn’t you want to have an economy that can adapt and can grow with the needs of a company like Amazon? I do hear you that we might be at our breaking point as a community and we just can’t tolerate any more technology jobs in our city. I personally would think we would want to try to find a way to accommodate another 50,000 technology workers in the community. As I said, this is a problem that most cities across the country would love to have. I mean, we were certainly going through growing pains in Seattle and those problems are real. But the flip side of it is not pretty — you know in places like Cleveland or Detroit, in the Rust Belt, in the Midwest. So I would love for the community to try to figure out ways to keep more of these types of jobs in Seattle.
ML: John, in your story today in GeekWire you outlined five possible cities where Amazon may find a second “summer home.”
JC: Yes, we actually added a sixth, a late addition.
ML: So what so what what cities are we looking at.
JC: Yeah. The sixth I put in there — my number one choice is, I think, Toronto. And now, that is a little bit of a wildcard you’d think, because most people when they think of a of a city that Amazon would expand into there naturally would think U.S. But Toronto has a booming technology economy. It produces very high quality software engineers. For many many years, tech companies have flown to Toronto to try to mine the talent out of their universities. Plus, you know, this ties into the news of the day: The immigration fight in the U.S. is real and it has major damaging effects for tech companies, and a country that is more tolerant of immigrants right now is a place that could be very appealing to a company like Amazon. As I said, it’s all about talent and where the best talent in technology goes in the world — that’s where the companies will follow.
CO: All right your other top five — we have a couple of more seconds with you — give us your other top other top five.
JC: Boston. I think an East Coast presence would be very interesting for them. Austin. As we all know, Amazon just bought Whole Foods and, you know, Whole Foods is based in Austin and Bezos has some connections into Texas as well. I also threw in Pittsburgh as a little bit of a wildcard because of Carnegie Mellon University there and the strong tech talent — and Chicago and Atlanta. So those were the six that we thought were contenders.
ML: And so we don’t have to worry about Oklahoma City again, correct?
JC: I don’t think so, no. No Oklahoma City. Although Chicago’s in there you know, big news — in 2001, Boeing left Seattle and moved to Chicago so they could take another one of our big headquarters.