Silliness aside, Amazon now has to pick a new second home

All the wacky stunts from cities to get Amazon's attention will probably wrap up soon, as the hard numbers take over in the company's choice for HQ2.

Ben Fox Rubin
Ben Fox Rubin Former senior reporter
Ben Fox Rubin was a senior reporter for CNET News in Manhattan, reporting on Amazon, e-commerce and mobile payments. He previously worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and got his start at newspapers in New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
2 min read

At Amazon's Day 1 corporate headquaters in Seattle. Hey Philadelphia, this could someday be you!

James Martin/CNET

The mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, sent out a press release earlier this month to declare he'd bought 1,000 items on Amazon.com and then offered a stat, fact or story about his city on each product's review page.

"The idea was easy -- make Kansas City the most well-reviewed city on Amazon," Mayor Sylvester "Sly" James Jr. said in a statement.

It was one of many wacky and over-the-top responses from cities that are hoping to lure Amazon as the e-commerce giant conducts a public search for a second home, dubbed Amazon HQ2. Tucson, Arizona, sent a 21-foot saguaro cactus to the tech giant. New York City lit several landmark buildings in "Amazon orange." And the city of Stonecrest, Georgia, offered to rename a part of itself Amazon, Georgia.

Now, with the next leg of the Amazon lottery starting Friday, many of those attention-seeking stunts will probably come to an end and the hard numbers will take over. The deadline for cities' submissions to snag Amazon HQ2 ends Thursday. Amazon plans to announce the winning city next year.

Whichever city gets picked will likely see huge changes, with Amazon planning to pour a total of $5 billion into the new HQ over the next 15 to 17 years and hire 50,000 employees. This second headquarters is expected to match the scale of its current Seattle location, which includes 33 buildings, 40,000 employees and $3.7 billion in building and infrastructure investments. Amazon tallied the indirect investments in the Seattle economy from its first headquarters in the tens of billions of dollars.

Seattle officials have struggled with the Amazon search, worried that the company won't grow or invest as much in its home city. But at the same time, candidate cities will have to weigh some of the negative aspects of Amazon's expected expansion, including heavier traffic, higher costs and rising rents. Also, whichever city does win its bid for Amazon will likely pay up in tax breaks and other incentives to outpace the competition.

Among the biggest tax packages offered, Newark, New Jersey, proposed $7 billion in incentives. Amazon subsidiary Audible is headquartered there already.

Though Amazon has stressed that it would consider a broad range of bidders across North America, the ratings agency Moody's offered its best guesses for the top contenders. It said Austin, Texas, home of Amazon-owned Whole Foods, was the most likely option when considering businesses environment, human capital and other factors.

Following Austin were Atlanta; Philadelphia; Rochester, New York; and Pittsburgh.

We should find out next year whether Amazon does indeed decide to land in any of those locations. In the meantime, perhaps we'll see a few more wacky stunts thrown in along the way.

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