What City Will End Up Winning the Amazon HQ2?

By Jerry Summer
Published on February 14, 2018
Amazon Headquarters Seattle

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re more than likely aware that Amazon is looking to establish a second headquarters for their business. Once Amazon made this announcement, cities around the world were excited about the possibility of bringing Amazon’s second headquarters (a.k.a. HQ2) to their city.

In total, 238 different cities ended up applying with Amazon to have their cities considered. Just about a week ago, Amazon made an announcement that they have narrowed the list of potential contenders down to only twenty cities, which broke the hearts of the remaining 218 that didn’t make the cut.

In this blog, I’ll fill you in on the remaining twenty cities. I’ll start out by listing each of them and letting you know what’s at stake for these cities. Next, I’ll talk about what it is that Amazon is seeking in HQ2. Finally, I’ll break down each one of the twenty finalists and let you know their strengths and weaknesses relating to landing Amazon’s HQ2. Ultimately, I’ll give you my pick on which city I think will make the cut and land HQ2. Let’s get to it!

The Contenders

First up, let’s take a quick look at the cities that did make Amazon’s cut. The twenty cities listed below rose to the top out of the 238 contenders.

  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Miami, Florida
  • Montgomery County, Maryland
  • Nashville, Tennessee
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • New York, New York
  • Northern Virginia
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Toronto, Canada
  • Washington D.C.

As you can see, all but one of the cities is in the United States. Only Toronto, Canada, made the final list of twenty contenders from outside of the country. You’ll also notice that most of the cities tend to come from the east coast of the United States. We’ll talk more about that in an upcoming section about what exactly Amazon is seeking in HQ2.

What’s at Stake?

You might be asking yourself what exactly is at stake for the lucky city selected to host Amazon’s HQ2. In short, landing Amazon’s second headquarters should create a massive financial windfall for the winning city. Amazon’s plans would be able to significantly move the needle for most of the cities that made the final twenty.

You see, Amazon isn’t looking to make a tiny second headquarters just to have something to talk about. Instead, Amazon has stated that they want to make HQ2 “a full equal” of their existing offices in Seattle. For those of you not aware of just how big Amazon’s campus in Seattle is, it is massive. I’ve been there myself on a couple of occasions, and it is impressive.

Amazon estimates that they’ll invest upwards of $5 billion into building HQ2. Since they’ll be mostly using contractors local to the winning city, this will immediately help infuse the local economy with wads of cash. In addition, Amazon plans to hire fifty thousand employees to staff HQ2. Each of these fifty thousand employees will also be spending some of their money locally, which also means that the local economy wins.

With so many jobs and possible cash infusion on the line, it’s easy to see why so many cities were hoping to land Amazon’s HQ2. In the end, one of these twenty cities will be announced as the winner. Up next, I’ll fill you in on what it is that Amazon is looking for in HQ2.

What Amazon Is Seeking

Before I give you my break down of which city I think will win HQ2, it’s essential for you to understand what it is that Amazon is looking for. The list below highlights the main things that Amazon has publically announced that they are seeking from an ideal HQ2 location. As I work through my analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of each city, I’ll be keeping these critical points in mind.

  • Presence on the east coast of the United States
  • Robust student pipeline from nearby universities with a significant emphasis on engineering
  • Excellent transportation hub with room for growth
  • Significant technology and pharma industry presence
  • Business-friendly
  • Political incentives
  • Attractive tax and economic benefits

Who Won’t Win

Before I give you my winning pick, I wanted to start with the cities that I don’t think will win HQ2. While each of these cities has strengths that fit some of what Amazon is looking for, I don’t believe that they’ll make the final cut. For each one of these cities, I’ll highlight what helps and hurts their chances of landing Amazon’s HQ2.

Golf IconLos Angeles, California

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    From a schools perspective, Los Angeles has some good ones. Most notable is UCLA located right in the city. As well, there are many other great colleges nearby that Amazon could recruit from.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Location:

    Since Amazon is seeking an east-coast operation for HQ2, I have a hard time seeing them select Los Angeles, since it is located on the west coast of the United States. While it is a reasonable distance away from the Seattle headquarters of Amazon, it still shares the same time zone. I think that this is a significant drawback for Los Angeles.

  • Transportation:

    Right up there with Atlanta, Los Angeles has absolutely terrible traffic problems. You should count your blessings if you’ve never found yourself stuck in a traffic jam in the city. Take it from me; it’s a complete nightmare. Added to their lousy car problems, Los Angeles also has a pretty weak public transport system at this time. While it is improving, they still have a ways to go to get it to where it needs to be for Amazon to take notice.

  • Size:

    Along with New York City, I think that Los Angeles is just too big for Amazon. Since Los Angeles has already established themselves as a significant city, Amazon won’t be able to come in and make waves like they would in one of the smaller cities like Austin. Due to this, I don’t see Amazon selecting such a large city, as I think they want to be able to come in and make an impact immediately.

While Los Angeles is a cool city, I just don’t see it landing HQ2 from Amazon. The main thing hurting their chances is their location on the west coast of the United States. That, coupled with the transportation issues of the city and the fact that Los Angeles is already a famous city, leads me to believe that they won’t be selected as the final winner of HQ2.

Golf IconDenver, Colorado

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    Denver has plenty of quality schools in the city and the surrounding area. Colleges such as the University of Colorado and the University of Denver are local schools. Based on the number of quality colleges in Denver’s metropolitan area, I don’t think they will have any problem recruiting top talent from the area.

  • Millennials:

    Millennials love Denver, and since Amazon is mainly seeking to employ millennials, it might be a good fit. For many millennials, Denver offers a great mix of an outdoor lifestyle coupled with progressive politics. For these reasons, I think that Denver might have a chance at pulling in HQ2.

  • Transportation:

    Denver has an excellent international airport for their city. As well, Denver has established a pretty good public transportation system within the city Both of these give me a reason to believe that Amazon will consider transportation within Denver as a positive.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Location:

    Unfortunately for Denver, they are not located on the east coast of the United States. While they are not as far west as Los Angeles, they are still found in the MST time zone, which is only an hour ahead of Seattle, versus the east coast, which is three hours ahead. While Denver itself is a great city, in my opinion, I just think it is too far west based on Amazon’s guiding criteria for HQ2.

As with Los Angeles, I think that the location of Denver is going to hurt their chances of winning HQ2. While Denver has a ton of good going for it regarding other items that Amazon is looking for, I don’t see it having the whole package. As much as I love Denver, it stinks to say they won’t win, but I think that this is the reality.

Golf IconNew York City, New York

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    New York City has a massive amount of colleges within its borders. Notable colleges include New York University and Columbia University. Thanks to all of the schools in the city, Amazon should have plenty of talent to recruit from when they are looking to staff HQ2.

  • Location:

    From a location standpoint, New York City checks the east coast box. With HQ2 in New York City, Amazon would have easy access to other major cities such as Boston. While the city does have a severe snow storm or two each year, the weather for the city isn’t too bad very frequently.

  • Transportation:

    New York City doesn’t disappoint when it comes to transportation. The city has three different international airports that are all easily accessible from the city itself. In addition, the city has a massive network of public transportation options, including the subway system. Based on all of this information, I think that New York City meets the transportation needs that Amazon is seeking from their HQ2 host.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Size:

    Similar to Los Angeles, New York City is what I would consider a “made” city. Since they’ve already established a name for themselves and tons of massive corporations already call the city home, Amazon won’t be able to come in and have the driver’s seat with the city. Since I think Amazon is going to want to have a significant impact on their selection, I don’t see them picking a major city like New York City.

New York City and Los Angeles fall into the same general bucket for me. Since both of these cities are already some of the most significant and most famous cities in the country, I don’t think that Amazon is going to feel like they’ll be able to make enough of an impact in them. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I just don’t see it happening.

Golf IconPhiladelphia, Pennsylvania

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Location:

    The City of Brotherly Love is located on the east coast of the country. With this site, it does meet Amazon’s wish to have HQ2 in the east.

  • Transportation:

    Philadelphia impresses when it comes to their transportation. Not only does the city have excellent public transit in place, but it also has a really good bike-share system. To go along with the great bike-share program, they also have hundreds of miles of bike lanes going all over the city.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Education:

    While many people may not think of Philadelphia as a city with excellent schools, it is. For whatever reason, people just don’t realize that they have some quality universities within their city borders. Notable schools include Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania. Amazon will have a magnificent pool of top graduates from the local schools if they decide on Philadelphia for the home of HQ2. However, there is one other side of education that should be looked at, and that it is schooling for children before college. Unfortunately, the state is underfunded when it comes to local schools in many areas of the state. While they are working to correct this issue, I don’t see Amazon picking a state where their employees won’t have a great system to help educate their children.

I don’t foresee Jeff Bezos running to the top of the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art like Rocky did in the movie. When I think tech and leading cities, Philadelphia just doesn’t come to mind. Perhaps it should, but I don’t believe that we’ll see the City of Brotherly Love winning HQ2.

Golf IconPittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    Although it’s not known as a city with top schools, I consider Pittsburgh to be a bit of a sleeper city in this department. For whatever reason, they fly under the radar, because in reality, they have some excellent schools. Some of the top schools that can be found in the Pittsburgh area include the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. With these institutions and the others in the metro area, Amazon should be fine with finding quality local recruits.

  • Location:

    Luckily, Pittsburgh is located on the east coast of the United States. Since this is a critical search criterion to Amazon for HQ2, this is a good thing for Pittsburgh.

  • Other:

    While many people may not realize this, Pittsburgh has quickly blossomed into a reliable hub for technology. In Pittsburgh, you’ll find offices from major tech companies such as Google and Facebook. As well, the city has been the testing ground for autonomous vehicles from Uber. With Pittsburgh being such an active technology hub, Amazon may pay more attention to this city than most people expected.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Transportation:

    Pittsburgh is a bit rocky when it comes to transportation. Mainly, the international airport there had some significant cutbacks in 2004. As part of these reductions, thousands of people lost their jobs, and hundreds of routes were canceled when US Airways decided to pull the plug on their hub there. It’s worth pointing out that the airport is working hard to get things back in a better place. Recently, the airport announced a $1 billion plan aimed to help modernize the airport. This project will begin in 2019 and could help the airport turn things around.

I think that the airport situation is the nail in the coffin for Pittsburgh. Amazon’s HQ2 is going to need to shuffle employees all over the globe on a regular basis. With an airport that is working to get back into the shape that it should be in, I don’t think Amazon will consider Pittsburgh as a contender for HQ2. Amazon needs a city that can hit the ground running now and be able to expand transportation quickly.

Golf IconChicago, Illinois

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    Not to be outdone by the other cities on this list, Chicago holds its own when it comes to quality You’ll find significant institutions such as Northwestern University and the University of Chicago in town. With schools this good in the area, Amazon will be able to recruit top candidates from these local schools.

  • Transportation:

    Overall, Chicago receives pretty good marks for transportation. The city has two major airports that are easily accessible using the city’s excellent public transportation system. It’s worth mentioning that the city does have a traffic problem on the roads, but I think that their top airports and public transportation system help offset it.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Violence:

    If you follow the news regularly, then you’re probably aware that Chicago is the murder capital of the United States. Despite a gun ban within the city limits, violence is still very high in the city. Due to this fact, I don’t know that Amazon will consider Chicago, even when factoring in all of the good I mentioned above.

  • Location:

    Technically located in the Midwest of the country, Chicago doesn’t make the cut relating to Amazon’s goal of being on the east coast of the nation. Even though Chicago isn’t that far away, I don’t see Amazon selecting Chicago, partially for this reason.

I wanted to like Chicago as a potential for HQ2, as Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the country. However, I think that their violence problem and location away from the east coast will probably force Amazon to look elsewhere.

Golf IconIndianapolis, Indiana

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    Indianapolis has many excellent schools within the city’s borders. Notable institutions such as Butler University and the University of Indianapolis are found in town. With these schools and the other colleges in the surrounding area, Amazon should not have an issue recruiting good employees from the local area.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Location:

    With a spot in the Midwest of the United States, Indianapolis doesn’t meet Amazon’s hope to have HQ2 on the east coast of the country. While Indianapolis isn’t as far west as some other finalists like Los Angeles, I see far too many good east coast candidates for Amazon to consider before Indianapolis.

  • Transportation:

    At this time, Indianapolis doesn’t have an excellent public transportation system. However, the city is working to improve that, thanks to an increase in local taxes which is aimed to help improve their public transit. Unfortunately, I think they are too far behind for Amazon to give them serious consideration.

When it comes to Indianapolis, I just don’t see it happening. Despite their excellent schools, their lack of proper public transportation coupled with their Midwest location hurts their chances with Amazon.

Golf IconNorthern Virginia

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    The region of northern Virginia is stacked with some excellent schools. Within that area, you’ll locate notable colleges such as VCU and the University of Virginia. Using this extensive gathering of schools, I don’t see Amazon having a problem finding good employees to staff HQ2.

  • Location:

    I like the area of northern Virginia. Centrally located on the east coast of the United States, this may be a very prime location for Amazon to consider. Being located where it is, northern Virginia has pretty mild weather year-round and doesn’t deal much with crazy winter problems.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Transportation:

    The northern Virginia area has a pretty good network of public transportation in place. They also have two large airports in the region to help get people all over the world. However, the traffic in that part of the country is notoriously awful. I don’t know if Amazon will overlook the traffic problem even with an excellent public transportation setup.

Personally, I’m a fan of the northern Virginia area. However, I think that the traffic there is going to be a pretty significant deterrent to Amazon. Given the close proximity to Washington, D.C., I think that Amazon might be better off looking there for reasons I’ll cover below.

Golf IconMiami, Florida

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    While Miami has many schools within its borders, one of them sticks out as the best. The University of Miami is one of the top schools in the state of Florida.

  • Location:

    Miami is a beautiful location. Located in the south of Florida, it’s a pretty ideal spot for many people. Being located that far south, the main thing that people have to worry about weather-wise is heat and hurricanes. To me, that’s much better than dealing with cold temperatures and snow. Luckily, Miami is located on the east coast of the country, which helps it meet one of Amazon’s main search points.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Transportation:

    Man, oh man, does Miami have a traffic problem. Having been raised in south Florida, I can speak from experience about how bad it is. Not only is the traffic bad, but the drivers in Miami are consistently ranked in the top worst drivers in the country. Down there, everyone seems to think that they are Jeff Gordon. Outside of the piss-poor traffic conditions, Miami also suffers from an insufficient public transportation system. While they are working to improve things, I think that the city is too far behind for Amazon to be able to consider it a serious competitor.

Miami has plenty of good going on for it. However, my gut is that the traffic and minimal public transportation will sway Amazon to look elsewhere for HQ2.

Golf IconDallas, Texas

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    Dallas itself has some good universities in the surrounding area. Some of the ones worth mentioning are Texas Christian University and Southern Methodist University. While the Dallas schools are not as sexy as the ones offered by some of the other cities on this list, these schools still provide Amazon with quality graduates that could help fill seats in HQ2 if Dallas is selected for the title.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Location:

    Unfortunately, Dallas is not on the east coast of the United States. While it is centrally located, I think that will deter Amazon from selecting this location, since the east coast seems like a significant piece of the puzzle.

  • Transportation:

    Dallas does have an incredible airport that serves tons of destinations. However, Dallas is lacking big time in the public transport area. Dallas is way behind when it comes to public transportation compared to most of the other cities on the Amazon short list. I think that this will be another significant reason why Amazon won’t select Dallas.

Unfortunately, Dallas’ great schools alone won’t be enough to help them land HQ2 from Amazon. Since they are not located on the east coast and due to their transportation woes, I don’t foresee Dallas pulling this one off.

Golf IconNewark, New Jersey

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    While no significant universities call Newark home, there are some big boys not that far away. All of the top colleges in New York City, including Columbia University, are just about a half an hour away from New York City. Also, both Princeton and Rutgers are within an hour of the city. With so many excellent schools nearby, Amazon should be able to find a sufficient set of potential new employees in this area.

  • Transportation:

    Newark has some pretty reliable public transit already in place. Based on this, I think that Amazon might find Newark attractive. Using the public transport, people can quickly get themselves to the local airport, as well as into New York City.

  • Incentives:

    New Jersey has brought one of the best incentive packages to the table thus far. In total, New Jersey has pledged to provide incentives that could amount to more than $7 billion if Amazon selects their location. This is definitely something that will catch the eye of the Amazon team, as it could mean substantial savings to their bottom line.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Location:

    One bonus of Newark is that it is very close to New York City. That being said, Newark is still in New Jersey. Unless you’re from New Jersey, then you, like me, probably don’t have the best opinion of it. I’m already having Jersey Shore flashbacks in my head. I just don’t see Amazon selecting this location, as it is not very attractive to millennials. Another issue with the site is that it can deal with some pretty crappy winter conditions, since it is located in the northeast.

Don’t get me wrong, Newark has a ton of strong selling points. However, the location within New Jersey will make it harder for Amazon to recruit people compared to many of the other cities on the finalist list.

Golf IconColumbus, Ohio

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    Columbus boasts the state’s flagship university, Ohio State University. This large campus has a stellar reputation and produces top talent across many different study disciplines. In addition to OSU, many other colleges also call the Columbus metro area home. All of these schools would help Amazon have plenty of local talent pools to select from.

  • Transportation:

    In its current state, Columbus has a pretty good public transportation system. What’s fantastic about Columbus is that they recently won some significant federal funding by winning a major project sponsored by the government. By beating out the competition, Columbus should see their public transportation improve even more thanks to this federal funding. I’m guessing that this fact will catch Amazon’s eye.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Location:

    Unfortunately for Columbus, the city isn’t located on the east coast of the country. Since this is one of Amazon’s primary search criteria, I think that this may be the nail in the coffin for them. While the upper Midwest of the country is a great area, it does deal with some hard winter conditions here and there.

I just don’t see Amazon selecting Columbus over the other cities on this list. I don’t see the city’s strengths outweighing the location in the Midwest.

Golf IconToronto, Canada

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    Toronto has two of the top engineering schools in the entire country of Canada right in their city. Both the University of Waterloo and the University of Toronto are top-notch schools that Amazon could use to pull the engineering talent that they are seeking.

  • Other:

    Some other tech companies are beginning to take notice of Toronto as a tech hub. Recently, Google established a lab in the city focused on artificial intelligence. Amazon might find an attraction to Toronto thanks to the rapidly expanding influence the city is having on technology.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Location:

    While Toronto is located on the east coast, it is not found within the United States. I think that setting up an entire headquarters in another country is most likely going to cause Amazon too much headache. It is my opinion that they’ll have a much easier path by setting up HQ2 within the US. Another drawback to the location is that Toronto is located very far north, which means that it comes with some pretty harsh winter conditions.

As the only city to make the cut that’s not located in the United States, Toronto stands out from the pack. That said, I think that this is the main reason that Amazon won’t select Toronto for HQ2. Dealing with all of the legal and logistical issues of establishing HQ2 in another country will cause Amazon to look within the US for their final pick.

The Maybes

In this section, I’ll include some takeaways from the cities that I think could maybe land Amazon’s HQ2. For each one, I’ll highlight some of what I believe helps the city, as well as what I think hurts the city.

Golf IconAtlanta, Georgia

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Location:

    Being based in the Eastern Time Zone makes this a win for Amazon’s goal of being located in the east. Also, since Atlanta is in the southeast of the United States, they benefit from relatively mild weather year-round.

  • Education:

    Atlanta has some great colleges right in town. Notable colleges include Emory University and Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech is known as one of the top engineering schools in the country, so that is a definite plus for them. Amazon would not have an issue finding top talent from excellent schools in the Atlanta metro area.

  • Other:

    A couple of other things going for Atlanta are the fact that the city is relatively affordable still and that there is plenty of space. Both of these mean that potential Amazon employees should not have an issue finding affordable housing in the metro area. As well, it means that Amazon should not have a hard time locating potential sites for their HQ2.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Transportation:

    If you’ve ever been to Atlanta, then you probably saw this one coming. Atlanta has some of the worst traffic jams in the country. The traffic in the city is so bad that some corporations have recently left Atlanta to move elsewhere so that their employees did not have to deal with the Atlanta traffic any longer. That being said, Atlanta does have one of the busiest airports in the country, which makes it pretty easy to get anywhere domestically or internationally with ease. From a public transportation standpoint, Atlanta has some room for improvement, as they are not as advanced as other cities on this list.

If you’ve poked around recently, you’ve probably seen that many people have named Atlanta their frontrunner to win Amazon’s HQ2. While I think that Atlanta has a ton of good going for it, they don’t make my top pick. I’d label Atlanta a healthy second place behind my first pick, which you’ll see in the My Top Pick section below.

Golf IconRaleigh, North Carolina

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Location:

    Like Atlanta, Raleigh is also located in the southeast of the United States. This means that for the most part, Raleigh residents have mild temperatures year round. While they might get an occasional dusting of snow, it is rare and usually isn’t too much of a pain for the city.

  • Education:

    Raleigh is not slacking when it comes to education powerhouses. Known by some as The Research Triangle, the Raleigh area has some fantastic colleges nearby. Most notably, you’ll find Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State University all within a short drive of Raleigh. Each of these schools could efficiently provide Amazon with an impressive talent pool.

  • Size:

    To many folks, Raleigh just isn’t big enough for Amazon. Some analysts have said that Amazon is seeking a city with a population of at least one million residents. Currently, Raleigh is sitting at less than half of that. However, I think that this could be very attractive to Amazon. In a city like Raleigh, Amazon could come in and quickly make a significant impact on the city. Unlike major cities like New York City and Los Angeles, Amazon could basically write their own ticket in a smaller metro like Raleigh, since there are not many significant players already in the city.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Transportation:

    Compared to most other cities on this list, Raleigh is lacking in the transportation department. While they have an international airport, it doesn’t serve nearly as many destinations as the airports in these other cities do. As well, Raleigh hasn’t done a great job with public transport. While they do have bus service, there is not any form of subway or commuter rail in the area at this time.

  • Politics:

    It’s worth noting one potential thing that could get in the way for Amazon in North Carolina from a political perspective. When North Carolina issued their policy regarding bathroom use for the LBGTQ community, Jeff Bezos did not agree with it. Due to this, it might be a long shot for North Carolina to land the pick if Bezos doesn’t think that the state is progressive enough for what Amazon employees are looking for.

While some consider Raleigh too small of a city to land Amazon’s HQ2, I think that might be a good thing in Amazon’s eyes. As I mentioned before, Amazon may like the idea of being able to shape a smaller city like Raleigh.

Golf IconNashville, Tennessee

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    Amazon has a good stable of top universities to select from in the Nashville neck of the woods. Top-ranked schools such as Belmont and Vanderbilt call the city home. As with the other cities on this list, Nashville would give Amazon plenty of runway for top college recruits to work at HQ2.

  • Location:

    Nashville is located within the Central Time Zone. Luckily, the area has some pretty good weather, thanks to its place in the southeast of the country. Thanks to the location and the mild weather, I think that Amazon may give serious consideration to Nashville.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Transportation:

    The one major area the Nashville is lacking is transportation. At this time, Nashville does have a public transportation system. However, it is minimal. If a company the size of Amazon were to come to town, it would quickly cripple the existing public transportation infrastructure.

Nashville is a very cool little town. However, I think that the current public transportation lack is something that will steer Amazon away from the city.

Golf IconBoston, Massachusetts

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    I don’t know that it gets much better than Boston when it comes to quality colleges in one area within the Perhaps you’ve heard of schools such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Boston University before. Each one of these establishments is consistently ranked in the top colleges in the country. With so many top schools in the Boston metro area, this might be the best city for Amazon to recruit prospects from.

  • Transportation:

    Boston has a fabulous setup for transportation. Logan International Airport is one of the best airports in the country with tons of flights heading all over the world. In addition, Boston also has a stellar public transportation system in place. In fact, a significant amount of Boston’s residents rely on the public transportation to get to and from work.

  • Other:

    Boston is a hotbed for robotics. Currently, over one hundred different companies focused on robotics call the city home. In fact, Amazon themselves has their warehouse robotics division based out of the city of Boston.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Location:

    Boston is located on the east coast of the United States, like the majority of the twenty finalists. Situated in the northeast, Boston is very close to other major cities such as New York City. However, being in the northeast also means that Boston comes with some pretty crappy weather at times. Boston is notorious for some pretty hellacious snowstorms. As impressive as Boston is in the spring and summer, I’m not sure that it entirely makes up for the rough winters there.

For me, Boston is a strong third-place candidate behind Atlanta and my top pick. I just don’t know if Amazon will be willing to accept the brutal winters to score access to Boston’s excellent transportation and schools.

Golf IconAustin, Texas

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Education:

    Austin has one the state’s best schools sitting within the city limits. The University of Texas has their main campus in Austin. This top college could help supply Amazon with quality candidates for HQ2.

  • Other:

    Austin is a pretty significant technology hub city. Major companies such as Dell and HP call Austin home. With a large pool of technical talent already in town, this might give Amazon reason to consider Austin for HQ2.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Location:

    Being located more towards the center of the United States, Austin unfortunately, doesn’t check the east coast box that Amazon is searching for. From a weather standpoint, Austin has pretty mild weather, but I don’t think that is enough to sway Amazon away from the east coast focus.

  • Transportation:

    Overall, Austin is pretty weak when it comes to transportation. While they have an airport with pretty strong domestic and international routes, that’s about it. From a public transportation standpoint, Austin doesn’t have a ton going on. They do have a commuter rail line. However, having been to Austin myself on several occasions, I can tell you that they still have a long way to go to meet the standards that I think Amazon is expecting.

Austin is a killer town with a great atmosphere. While I think that millennials would be a big fan if Amazon decided on Austin, I just don’t see it happening. Since they are not on the east coast and they have weak public transportation systems at this time, I’m pretty sure that Amazon will overlook Austin when push comes to shove.

My Top Pick

If you’ve been keeping track, you might have noticed that Washington was not on my lists above. That’s because Washington, D.C is my top pick to win Amazon’s HQ2 title. As you’ll see below, I have tons of reasons why I think they’ll earn the honor of landing HQ2.

Golf IconWashington D.C.

What Helps Their Chances:

  • Location:

    Located smack dab in the middle of the east coast of the United States, Washington is a pretty ideal east coast location. One other great perk of the site is that Washington is within easy reach of other major cities such as Philadelphia and New York City.

  • Education:

    As with most of the other cities on the list, Washington, D.C. doesn’t disappoint when it comes to local colleges. Notable schools in the Washington area include George Washington University and Georgetown University. With access to these schools and others, Amazon should be able to find a reliable line of potential employees.

  • Transportation:

    While the road traffic in Washington can be a bit of a pain at times, their public transport system is pretty solid. From my experience, the metro in Washington is one of the best ones in the country, and that is a definite positive for Amazon. Using the metro system, you can quickly get out to both of the major airports in Washington. With two major airports servicing the same city, there are tons of domestic and international destinations easily accessible through Washington, D.C.

  • Incentives:

    While many of the cities on this list have offered incentive packages in their pitch to Amazon, Washington stands out to me with one of the best ones thus far. To help win HQ2 for their city, Washington has stepped up with a killer package that includes a zero percent corporate tax rate for the first five years. As well, they have also offered a state sales tax exemption on all hardware and software purchases. Both of these incentives could help Amazon significantly boost their bottom line if they select Washington for HQ2.

  • Political Hotbed:

    Thanks to Washington’s status as the political center for the United States, it makes it an attractive place for Amazon to post up a second headquarters. While many corporations use lobbying to try and get things to go their way, Amazon might be able to pull more favors from the government if they settle on Washington for their HQ2. By being in the same town, Jeff Bezos and his team would have easier access to crucial government figures that could help the company earn more tax cuts and incentives over the long haul.

  • Jeff Bezos:

    While I’ve highlighted several key selling points above for Washington, I think that it all comes down to Bezos himself. One major draw to Washington is the fact that Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, which is located in the city. Bezos is actively involved in the management of this organization, so having him closer more frequently wouldn’t be a bad thing. There is also one other primary anchor that I think helps seal the deal for Washington. Recently, Bezos purchased two neighboring mansions in Washington and is currently combining them into one private residence. Once completed, the estate will be the largest private residence in Washington, D.C. Bezos spent more than $23 million to acquire the properties. If you ask me, this is a pretty good reason why Bezos may want HQ2 to end up in Washington.

What Hurts Their Chances:

  • Cost of Living:

    The main drawback that I see to the Washington metro area is the cost of living. Washington is notorious for having one of the highest cost of living levels in the United States. That being said, HQ2 won’t have a ton of low-paid workers. Many employees at Amazon HQ2 will be MBA graduates that will be making high salaries. Since Amazon’s current headquarters is in Seattle, I don’t know how much of an impact this will have. Seattle itself also has a relatively high cost of living.

As you can see above, the benefits of Washington far outweigh the negative relating to the cost of living. In my opinion, I think that Washington will earn HQ2. With Bezos’ ties to the city, along with the excellent transportation and schools, Washington seems like a perfect fit for HQ2.

The Odds

Interestingly, some online casinos already have odds out there on the HQ2 location. One such place is Bovada. Currently, Bovada has Atlanta as their top pick to win HQ2. At the time of my blog article, they had Atlanta at +200. Following Atlanta, the top five picks also included Austin (+500), Boston (+700), Washington (+800), and Nashville (+1000). The last pick from Bovada currently is a tie between Miami and Toronto, both with odds of +3000.

How confident am I? If I were making odds, I’d put Washington at +300. My top five would also include Atlanta (+400), Boston (+500), Austin (+900), and Raleigh (+1200). If it’s not Washington, then I’m pretty sure we’ll see Atlanta taking the cake.

Summary

We’ll have to wait until later this year to see if I’m correct or not. All signs point to Amazon making their final decision before the end of 2018. There is no doubt that Amazon has handpicked an excellent selection of potential contenders for their HQ2. Whichever city is lucky enough to land the title will be blessed with tons of financial impact for many years to come. Best of luck to the twenty remaining contenders as they work to lobby Amazon for the right to earn HQ2.

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What City Will End Up Winning the Amazon HQ2?
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What City Will End Up Winning the Amazon HQ2?
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re more than likely aware that Amazon is looking to establish a second headquarters. Here is my full analysis of the twenty cities Amazon is considering for HQ2. I’ll break down each one of them and let you know who I ultimately think will win the opportunity of a lifetime.
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Nielmond | 16 Feb 2018
Why didn't you include Montgomery County in your rundown?
Mentallect | 15 Feb 2018
Northern Virginia has every strength of Washington DC being just 1 mile away from DC proper, but has less weaknesses especially on the ease of doing business and more tax friendly to corporations. Alexandria and Arlington consistently ranked higher in places millennials prefer...the demographic Amazons most recruits and desires to retain.
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