The 20 cities that have made the first cut. Image by Amazon.

Amazon has just revealed the top 20 city candidates for its second headquarters, and three of them are in the Washington region: DC, Northern Virginia, and Montgomery County. The only other metro area to get more than one location on the list is New York City and Newark. Toronto is the only non-US city on the list; the original 238 applicants included candidates from Mexico, the US, and Canada.

For the uninitiated, Amazon wants to construct a second corporate campus, which the release clarified will be a “full equal” to the existing one in Seattle. It will occupy up to 8 million square feet and include $5 billion in investment, with the potential to support as many as 50,000 “high-paying” jobs — though Amazon hasn't defined what they mean by “high paying.” Major metro areas across the US and beyond have been vying for the new headquarters.

The places that have made the first cut will move to the next step of the submission process, which includes working directly with the candidates to obtain more information. Amazon says they're planning to make a final decision by the end of the year. Here are the 20 places that made the first cut:

  • 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, DC

DC Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a press release this morning, “As Washington, DC continues to grow and we continue our focus on creating pathways to the middle class for more Washingtonians, it would be a win for our residents and the region to bring 50,000 high-paying jobs to our city. Making this list reaffirms what we already knew going into the bid process – Washington, DC is no longer a one-company government town, we are a leader in innovation and tech, brimming with top talent and endless opportunity.”

Here's what our contributors have to say about it:

David Meni says,

Whether this speaks to the region's assets in transportation/education/labor force, Bezos' slight bias for the region, or the fact that our area gave the most in secret corporate subsidies remains to be seen. It's probably some combination of the three.

My cynical take is that they separated DC, Maryland, and Virginia because we're one of the only metro areas with so many competing jurisdictions to play off each other. It super-charges the race to the bottom. Also, their picks in the region won't be helping the East/West imbalance. I don't disagree that it would be an economic boon, the question is *for whom* and *at what cost.*

Abby Lynch says,

That just confirms my impression that this is just a list of major metro areas that are also interesting places to live. I suppose it's a smart business and PR move on Amazon's part to trigger this kind of competition, but I would assume that many of these were on a short list already.

Taking an economic perspective, Rahul Sinha notes,

Economic clustering is real, so I do think HQ2 would be a boon for the region, including within DC if it were in Wards 5/7/8, which lack much in the way of tradable labor employment base.

There are real feedback loops to hitting critical mass in a given type of employment, and the DC area isn’t really there yet when it comes to a particular level of tech talent. We have some dynamism in that sector, but the tech community here is still too focused on federal clients.

Dan Malouff wants to know,

Northern Virginia submitted multiple bids. Which one is this? The lack of a jurisdiction in the name suggests maybe it's the joint Fairfax-Loudoun bid for Dulles, but it's not clear.

Alex Baca says,

I find the Amazon conversation pretty snoozy, to be honest! Amazon will go to where it can benefit the most, whether that's in labor costs, land costs, or…whatever costs. (Though one quirk I'd entertain is Bezos doubling-down on the Washington region and selecting DC or Montgomery County so that he can be close to the Post — CEOs love to locate their headquarters for their convenience.)

From there, Amazon will choose to do whatever it chooses to do with regard to community benefits and engagement — so in my dreams, local politicians and organizations are ready with demands, though they definitely won't be.

Tracy Loh adds,

I’m disappointed that Baltimore didn’t make it. I would have expected a stronger case there than other Rust Belt cities, but it’s tough to say without seeing the bids or hearing more feedback from Amazon. I still think it’s a mistake to see this request for proposals as a typical corporate relocation driven by a quest for subsidies.

My sense is that this is a real estate investment for Amazon and they are looking for a smart co-investor, not short term freebies. A smart growth developer like Amazon could be a major plus for our region’s built environment, if our jurisdictions are smart about sponsoring placemaking instead of writing blank checks.

Dan Reed points out:

I’m with Abby and Tracy — after Discovery announced they were leaving Silver Spring, there was a lot of handwringing about how Montgomery County is a bad place to do business because of bureaucracy or high taxes, but their people made it explicitly clear: They were moving because of their own issues, but also because New York is a nice place to be.

Likewise, Amazon’s short list is really a list of nice places to live, not a list of low-cost or low-regulation places.

What do you think of the Amazon news?