Amazon discreetly visits HQ2 cities in Phase 2 of extraordinary second headquarters competition

Amazon selected these 20 cities to move onto the next phase of its HQ2 competition. (Amazon Image)

Amazon is on tour.

The Seattle tech titan is visiting the 20 cities competing for its second headquarters, collecting data and touring potential sites for the project to inform the company’s final decision.

Reports of visits from Amazon officials are starting to pop up in some of the cities, like Toronto and the Washington, D.C. region.

Three cities from the D.C. metro made it onto Amazon’s short list, fueling speculation that the region is a frontrunner for HQ2. The Washington Post, which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns, sees visits from Amazon officials as further evidence that the Capital is in the lead.

“Officials from toured sites in Washington, Montgomery County, Md., and Northern Virginia last week — the latest sign that the tech giant is seriously considering adding a second headquarters with as many as 50,000 jobs to the D.C. area, according to officials in all three jurisdictions,” writes The Post’s Jonathan O’Connell.

The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Does Jeff Bezos want to be closer to political power brokers? (Flickr Photo / Daniel Mennerich)

But Amazon says the HQ2 tour is just due diligence.

“Amazon is working with each HQ2 candidate city to dive deeper on their proposals and share additional information about the company’s plans,” a spokesperson for the company told GeekWire. “We’re excited to visit each location and talk about how HQ2 could benefit our employees and the local community.”

Amazon is carrying out the next phase of its HQ2 contest discreetly. Toronto Mayor John Tory recently told reporters that Amazon officials are “visiting the cities, and they’re not doing it with a lot of fanfare,” according to the Toronto Star. He also noted that the due diligence process is limited to a “very, very narrow circle of people” in his city.

That contrasts with the early phases of Amazon’s search for a second headquarters, which instantly became a media spectacle when the company put out a public request for proposals. That request included a preference for government incentives, which has become a lightning rod. Today, city council members from New York City, Indianapolis, and Austin signed onto a pact initiated by influential economists asking HQ2 cities to collectively deny incentives to Amazon.

Amazon plans to make investments in the city that wins HQ2 on the level of those the company has made in its hometown, Seattle. Amazon says its second headquarters will be a $5 billion investment in the winning community, bringing 50,000 high-paying jobs.