Where should Amazon’s new headquarters be located?

Earlier this month, online giant Amazon announced it wants a new secondary headquarters (dubbed “HQ2”) in another North American city. Amazon listed their desired criteria in their press release:

In choosing the location for HQ2, Amazon has a preference for:
* Metropolitan areas with more than one million people
* A stable and business-friendly environment
* Urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent
* Communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options

HQ2 could be, but does not have to be:
* An urban or downtown campus
* A similar layout to Amazon’s Seattle campus
* A development-prepped site. We want to encourage states/provinces and communities to think
creatively for viable real estate options, while not negatively affecting our preferred timeline

Since then, the US and Canada are abuzz about Amazon. Dozens of cities are arguing why Amazon should pick their city. There’s also a lot of articles about which city Amazon should pick. On that note, I may as well join in, too.

My assumptions

Chicago skyline
Chicago skyline. Photo by 12019 (Pixabay / CC0)

My assumptions for possible cities, based on Amazon’s press release/corporate culture:

  • A metropolitan area of at least a million people, as noted.
  • A “business friendly environment.” I’ll interpret it as somewhere with a Republican/libertarian/conservative-led or -influenced state government, and preferably a state/province either without a state/local income tax or a low one. (Washington, of course, doesn’t have one.) Being an inexpensive location might also be a plus.
  • Not in California, Oregon, or an adjoining state/province to California, Oregon, and Washington; I suspect those would be too close to Seattle and redundant. So no Silicon Valley, Vancouver, Portland, or Phoenix.
  • Somewhere techie-friendly or with an already fairly strong tech industry presence. Not something I can really gauge (besides varying surveys, etc.), but it’s an inherent assumption.

The criteria

Metropolitan areas with at least a million people

Here’s a link to all United States metropolitan areas, sorted by population:

For Canada, metropolitan areas with at least a million people include Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, and Edmonton.

Conservative/libertarian-controlled or leaning state governments

Here’s a map on Wikipedia (though the sources seem accurate) showing what states have Republican-controlled or -leaning legislatures. Basically, it’s most of the Midwestern and Southern US. (The GOP made gains in state government control during the 2016 election.)

For Canada, here’s a list of the current provincial government control by party. No Canadian cities above a million people in population are in provinces with conservative-controlled governments. Canada’s 2015 federal election saw a big swing away from Canada’s Conservative Party, with Justin Trudeau (of the Liberal Party) becoming prime minister.

Low or no state income tax

States without a state income tax include: Washington, Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.

States deemed the most tax-friendly by a pro-business think-tank, the Tax Foundation, include: Wyoming, South Dakota, Alaska, Florida, Nevada, Montana, New Hampshire, Indiana, Utah, and Oregon. The next ten states include: North Carolina, Michigan, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Colorado, Washington, West Virginia, Delaware, and Idaho.

Possible cities

Houston skyscrapers
Houston skyline. Photo by adjuvantmedia (Pixabay / CC0)

Below are the cities I feel are possible nominees for Amazon’s new headquarters:

  • Dallas
  • Houston
  • Miami
  • Tampa, FL
  • Orlando, FL
  • San Antonio
  • Austin, TX
  • Jacksonville, FL
  • Salt Lake City
  • Indianapolis
  • Raleigh, NC
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Nashville
  • Memphis
  • Kansas City
  • St. Louis
  • Denver

Which city will it be?

So which city will Amazon pick for its new headquarters? My guess is Houston or Austin, Texas. Both are cities with strong tech industry ties (and in Houston’s case, ties to NASA); Texas also has no state income tax and is business friendly. Austin in particular is a somewhat progressive city, and hosts the annual SXSW conference. Houston, meanwhile, is the nation’s fourth-largest city, which means plenty of big-city amenities at hand.

As for Canadian cities, Canada has the same amenities and a similar culture as its neighbor. These days, Canada’s government’s also much less xenophobic/much friendlier toward immigrants than the United States government. However, the US has a friendlier business climate, so that might be enough to keep Amazon stateside. On the unlikely chance Bezos and company head north of the border, it’ll be Toronto.

Ignoring all of the above, I’d personally favor Chicago as a possible location. It’s centrally located, has plenty of amenities (as the nation’s third-largest city), and has previously seen another Seattle-area company’s headquarters relocate there (Boeing). Chicagoland also is the home of Sears, a one-time Amazon-sized retail titan. (Until recently, the Willis Tower was named the Sears Tower.) I’d also argue that Chicago’s home to a diverse population, which might be a step toward dealing with the tech industry’s diversity problems.

3 comments

  1. Houston and Austin are my guesses as well. Major metropolitan areas that seem to have their own ‘vibe’ already and would be business friendly. Anything in NC would surprise me, just because of how cutting-edge Amazon is and those areas do not give that feel. We will see!

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