Midwest charm. Southern hospitality. East Coast bravado. Don’t expect any of those geographic personality traits when you’re attempting to ask Amazon employees where their company’s second headquarters should be located.
After the tech giant announced Thursday morning that it had narrowed its list of potential HQ2 cities to 20, GeekWire hit the chilly, early morning streets of downtown Seattle to gauge the reaction of notoriously tight-lipped people near HQ1. Do they care where 50,000 future co-workers could end up? Pick a city, any city, we said, flashing the Amazon map that pinpointed finalist locales from L.A. to D.C.
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned as Amazon has grown up and around and transformed its hometown, Amazonians are rarely confused for outgoing or verbose types from … pick a city. Any city.
Getting anybody to talk in Seattle is surely an exercise in persistence. Or annoyance, depending on which end of the attempted conversation you’re on. Catching head-down tech workers on their way to their desks early in the morning doesn’t make it any easier, especially when ear buds are in or dogs that have to find a bush are acting as formidable distractions.
But a few friendly folks — some who worked for Amazon, some who didn’t, none who wanted to give a name — chimed in on HQ2 and those 20 final cities.
“Austin. Raleigh,” said an Amazonian carrying an umbrella in front of the Amazon-owned Whole Foods Market at the corner of Denny Way and Westlake Avenue. Citing his preference for those cities, he didn’t elaborate on whether he preferred the climate or the schools or any existing tech infrastructure.
“Personally, I like Denver,” said another Amazon worker, crossing Seventh Avenue en route to the company’s Day 1 office tower. “Only because I used to live there. … Austin is a good town, too,” he added, quickly rocketing the Texas music mecca to the top of our very short Geek on the Street sample size.
Workers and dogs continued to pass by hurriedly, perhaps not fully aware that an entire North American continent outside of Seattle was waiting for insider opinions on who could possibly win this “contest.”
The soon-to-be open Spheres on Lenora Street glowed in the early morning hours, showing off the plants inside. Surely it must be warmer in there. It must be warmer somewhere.
“Atlanta,” said a woman walking her dog. “I feel it,” she said of the city that has indeed shown up on some short lists. It does have a big airport, which checks a box. And it does get hot — which sounded nice on Thursday.
But Atlanta is too close as far as another guy on the street was concerned. And forget cities. He was going big with whole countries.
Waiting for a bus, he offered up China as a good place for the e-commerce giant’s second home. “Or better yet, somewhere in India.”
A gentleman who works for a startup downtown would have gotten the prize for friendliest Seattleite, if prizes were being awarded. But again, no name. Who do we thank for this fear of chatting with media types? The president? The media?
“I’m sure they have a tighter group than 20,” the man said, scanning the cities on Amazon’s green map of the United States, and pretty much echoing the sentiment that this is a big dog-and-pony show so Amazon can pit places against one another to get the sweetest deal. “It’ll probably go to a major metro area with a lot of tech talent.”
Back at Whole Foods, I needed a coffee to warm my hands.
Another non-Amazonian chuckled at the thought of Boston and New York and Dallas and Chicago and all the other cities taking this exercise to the next level, trying to prove to Amazon that they deserved to be … the next Seattle.
“That’s gonna be horrible,” the man said. “Or great. One or the other.”