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An Amazon graphic identifies the 20 cities that will move to the next phase of its HQ2 search.

Amazon has selected 20 cities to move to the next phase in its HQ2 selection process, the latest twist in an unprecedented headquarters search that has turned into a national curiosity.

The cities, named by the company this morning, are Toronto, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, Los Angeles, Dallas, Austin, Boston, New York City, Newark, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Montgomery County, Washington, D.C., Raleigh, Northern Virginia, Atlanta, and Miami.

May HQ2 be ever in your favor: Amazon’s new short list pits 20 cities against each other in a risky game

“In the coming months, Amazon will work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate the company’s hiring plans as well as benefit its employees and the local community. Amazon expects to make a decision in 2018,” the company says in a news release.

Los Angeles is the only West Coast representative on the list of 20 cities, which is concentrated heavily in the Midwest and the Northeast. No cities from the Pacific Northwest made the cut, confirming that Amazon is focusing on other parts of the country to differentiate from its longtime home in Seattle. This is despite bids by the economic development officials in the Seattle region, Tacoma and Portland in the Pacific Northwest.

Ranking Amazon’s HQ2 short list: Analysis of the top 20 contenders and our winning pick 

Toronto is the only city on the list in Canada. Three of the finalists are in the Washington, D.C., area. Two Texas cities, Austin and Dallas, made the list. New York City and Newark are another notable cluster.

The top 20 are split almost evenly along political lines. Ten locations are in red states from the 2016 election, versus nine in blue territory.

Notably missing from the list: Detroit, Cincinnati and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

“Thank you to all 238 communities that submitted proposals. Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough – all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said Holly Sullivan of Amazon’s Public Policy team, in the release. “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.”

Amazon’s Sept. 7, 2017, announcement that it would build a second “full equal” headquarters somewhere in North America surprised the tech industry and jolted cities across the continent into action, each pursuing a $5 billion project that promises to bring as many as 50,000 technology jobs to the chosen community.

New York City lit up in “Amazon orange.” Chicago created a 600-person committee. The coaches of the rival Michigan and Michigan State football teams wore “#AmazonDetroit” headsets. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other lawmakers pledged $5 billion in tax breaks. Stonecrest, Ga., offered to rename a 345-acre section of town the “City of Amazon.” Tuscon, Ariz., sent Amazon a 21-foot-cactus. (The company declined the delivery, redirecting the gift to a museum.)

Cities even bought advertising around Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, putting their pitches on billboards, public transit, and chalk on the sidewalk.

The city of Calgary came to the heart of Amazon’s Seattle campus with an aggressive HQ2 pitch. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

From local bars to company break rooms, seemingly everyone had an opinion or a theory on where “HQ2” would end up. The guessing game — where will Amazon go? — was the subject of headlines and holiday conversations.

Reaction to Amazon’s HQ2 short list: Notable omissions, surprise picks, and internet snark

Ultimately, by the Oct. 19 deadline, the company received 238 responses to its request for proposals.

The response illustrated the huge thirst for jobs and economic growth in communities across the country. It also demonstrated Amazon’s clout, raising concerns among some political leaders and community members: Should one of the most powerful tech companies in the world — currently valued at more than $600 billion — really be trying to extract tax breaks and other financial incentives from cities facing more difficult financial situations?

Some longtime Seattle residents, who have experienced Amazon’s transformation of its hometown, warned HQ2 bidders “to be careful what they wish for” — pointing to the traffic problems and soaring housing costs that can accompany such good fortune.

In many ways, the company has outgrown the city. More than 40,000 Amazon employees now work in Seattle, largely in the Denny Triangle and South Lake Union neighborhoods north of downtown, which have been transformed by dozens of new Amazon buildings over the past decade.

The company employs more than 540,000 people worldwide, taking into account its Whole Foods acquisition, up from just 20,000 a decade ago.

During that period, Amazon has expanded beyond its roots in e-commerce and digital reading into cloud computing, logistics, drones, brick-and-mortar retail stores, artificial intelligence and many other parts of the technology world. The company’s smiling brown boxes are now ubiquitous on doorsteps around the world.

Some business and political leaders in Seattle saw Amazon’s decision to seek a second headquarters as “a wake-up call,” prompting the region to submit its own bid to try to “renew” its relationship with the tech giant in its midst.

Amazon Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke at the 2017 GeekWire Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Dan DeLong)

Amazon Consumer CEO Jeff Wilke, one of the company’s highest-ranking executives behind CEO Jeff Bezos, told Seattle not to take it personally. HQ2 is about giving the company more “room and talent and diversity of environment for people,” he said at the GeekWire Summit in October. 

“We love Seattle,” he said. “It’s been a great home for us.”

Amazon hasn’t said which of its divisions and operations will be housed in HQ2. Instead, the company says it will give employees and executives the choice to relocate to HQ2 or stay at HQ1 in Seattle. “Not everybody wants to live in the Northwest,” Wilke said at the time. “It’s been terrific for me and my family, but I think we may find another location allows us to recruit a different collection of employees.”

Citing anonymous people familiar with the process, The New York Times reports that the HQ2 search “was conducted by a team of about a dozen people within Amazon, including economists, human resources managers and executives who oversee real estate. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive who was the mastermind behind turning the search into a public process and coined the term ‘HQ2,’ was also involved, the people said.”

GeekWire has separately conducted a search for its own temporary HQ2, issuing an RFP to cities in the spirit of Amazon’s search, and three of our four finalists are on Amazon’s list: Denver, Pittsburgh, and Raleigh. We chose Pittsburgh and are headed to the Steel City for the full month of February.

Number of jobs expected from HQ2 has been corrected since original post. Developing story, more to come. Amazon’s full news release is below.

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–(NASDAQ: AMZN)—Amazon reviewed 238 proposals from across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico to host HQ2, the company’s second headquarters in North America. Today, Amazon announced it has chosen the following 20 metropolitan areas to move to the next phase of the process (in alphabetical order):

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Austin, TX
  • Boston, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Columbus, OH
  • Dallas, TX
  • Denver, CO
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Miami, FL
  • Montgomery County, MD
  • Nashville, TN
  • Newark, NJ
  • New York City, NY
  • Northern Virginia, VA
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Toronto, ON
  • Washington D.C.

“Thank you to all 238 communities that submitted proposals. Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough – all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said Holly Sullivan, Amazon Public Policy. “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.”

Amazon evaluated each of the proposals based on the criteria outlined in the RFP to create the list of 20 HQ2 candidates that will continue in the selection process. In the coming months, Amazon will work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate the company’s hiring plans as well as benefit its employees and the local community. Amazon expects to make a decision in 2018.

Amazon HQ2 will be a complete headquarters for Amazon, not a satellite office. The company plans to invest over $5 billion and grow this second headquarters to accommodate as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.

With more than 540,000 employees worldwide, Amazon ranks #1 on Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, #2 in Fortune’s World Most Admired Companies, #1 on The Harris Poll’s Corporate Reputation survey, and #2 on LinkedIn’s U.S. most desirable companies list. Amazon was also recently included in the Military Times’ Best for Vets list of companies committed to providing opportunities for military veterans. Over the past five years, Amazon has invested more than $100 billion in the U.S., including corporate offices, development and research centers, fulfillment infrastructure, and compensation to its teams.

To learn more about Amazon’s current Seattle headquarters and the latest about HQ2 visit www.amazon.com/amazonHQ2.

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