Here Are the Front Runners For Amazon’s New HQ2 Campus

Amazon HQ2

Last week, 20 cities in the United States and Canada were informed by Amazon that their bid to host the tech giant’s second headquarters, HQ2, was still being considered.

For months, North American cities have flirted with Amazon and its promise of up to 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in investment. According to the New York Times, 238 cities and regions applied to bring the company to town, with many using tax breaks and local flavor to influence Amazon’s decision.

The final 20 includes cities that were to expected to make the cut, like New York and Dallas, as well as surprises like Nashville and Columbus. It also includes smaller cities such as Newark and Miami, as well as large metros like Los Angeles.

Here’s our take on the five most probable destinations for Amazon’s HQ2 and why we think each city would be a good fit.

The Expert’s Pick — Atlanta

Sperling BestPlaces, a firm that uses demographic and place data to make predictions, has named Atlanta the frontrunner for Amazon’s HQ2. According to TechCrunch, the firm has had a fairly good track record with its prior picks—15 of its top 20 picks made Amazon’s short list, including its top 11. Data crunching aside, the firm is betting on Atlanta as the top pick for a other reasons too: The city is still close enough to DC, Boston, and New York, but has more available space to offer at affordable prices. The company could build its new building on the outskirts of town to avoid crowding, overpricing and congestion.

An Offer You Can’t Refuse? — Maryland

According to the Washington Post, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has issued a proposal to Amazon that offers the company $3 billion in tax breaks and grants and about $2 billion in transportation upgrades. The governor issued this proposal to help convince Amazon to build a 100-acre campus in White Flint or another site in North Bethesda. The proposal also outlines legislation that would provide a 10-year package of tax credits and exemptions.

“HQ2 is the single greatest economic development opportunity in a generation, and we’re committing all of the resources we have to bring it home to Maryland,” Hogan said in a statement obtained by The Washington Post.

The Most To Gain — Newark

Of all the cities on the final list, Newark could have the most to gain from HQ2. According to WIRED, Newark’s unemployment rate sits at roughly double the average of the other cities on the list — 7.9 percent. In addition to that, nearly one-third of its population living under the poverty line, and Essex County has New Jersey’s largest homeless population. Bringing HQ2 to Newark would help turn those numbers around. But in order to help make this happen, Newark is making the biggest offer to Amazon: The city offered Amazon up to $7 billion in state and local tax incentives.

“A Newark HQ2 would mean tens of thousands of local jobs, a boost to our regional economy and small businesses, and an opportunity for Amazon to take a tremendous stake in the continued transformation of our great city,” US Senator Cory Booker said in a statement to WIRED.

“The Longshot” — Denver

In October, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper told the Denver Post that city’s chances at Amazon HQ2 were a “longshot” effort, in large part because of Colorado’s distance from the East Coast and Europe. After being named as a finalist, Hickenlooper once again tempered expectations, saying that if the tech giant picked another location, “I’m not going to cry.” What exactly has Denver offered to Amazon? Colorado’s economic development officials have declined releasing any of the final details of their pitch.

The Underdog — Philadelphia

Full disclosure: This author is a proud Philadelphian who roots for his city through thick and thin. And just like I have the utmost confidence that the Eagles will beat Patriots on Super Sunday in a few weeks (please), I also believe that Philly should be a frontrunner for Amazon’s new headquarters.

Philadelphia is an up-and-coming city with plenty of room along its redeveloping waterfront. Add in a growing tech community and ripe market for talent thanks the metro’s abundance of top business schools, and it’s hard to argue that putting HQ2 in Philly makes sense. The City of Brotherly Love’s centralized proximity to other major metros like New York, Washington DC, and Baltimore also makes it an attractive option for Amazon.

And then there’s this … Perhaps Amazon is a bigger fan of Philadelphia than anyone thought:


Only time will tell which city Amazon chooses to be the new home of HQ2. Ultimately, whichever city offers the best tax break, while providing the best resources and perks for a new workforce, will be awarded with the honor. But here’s a radical concept proposed by a handful of scholars: The remaining cities should collectively bargain with Amazon.

Richard Florida, a University of Toronto professor who studies urban policy, believes that the competing cities should form a non-aggression pact and tell Amazon they stop begging with incentives and giveaways.

In a column for CNN, Florida wrote, “The truly progressive thing to do is to forge a pact to not give Amazon a penny in tax incentives or other handouts, thereby forcing the company to make its decision based on merit.”

Some legislators have echoed Florida’s sentiment as well, such as Rep. Ro Khanna, a rising critic of Amazon and other large companies.

“The cities should not compete against each other in a race to the bottom. It’s absurd for the taxpayers to offer subsidies to one of the richest companies in the world,” Khanna told The Intercept. “Instead, perhaps the cities should band together and bargain collectively on issues such as wages, jobs, infrastructure improvements, and the environment. This would prevent Amazon from simply going to the city that offers the most tax breaks.”

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About the Author

Max Pulcini

Staff Writer, covering MetroMBA's news beat for Chicago, Washington D.C., and Baltimore.

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