Amazon narrows list to 20 cities for HQ2

Amazon narrows list to 20 cities for HQ2
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Amazon has narrowed the list of cities it will consider for its mammoth new second headquarters to 20, after nearly 240 communities submitted bids to host the internet giant's new facilities.

Among the finalists for the HQ2 project are three Washington-area localities: Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Montgomery County, Md. All three put in separate bids to host Amazon.

The New York region is the only other area with multiple finalists. Amazon said early Thursday that both New York City and Newark, N.J., are still in the running.

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Other finalists include front-runners like Atlanta, Boston, Toronto, and Austin, Texas; growing tech hubs like Los Angeles and Denver; and some surprising contenders in the Midwest and the South, like Nashville, Tenn., Raleigh, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Dallas, Indianapolis, Miami, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh also made the finalist list.

The company did not say how it reached its new list, though they praised the 238 bidders in a statement.

"All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity," Holly Sullivan, who heads Amazon's public policy division, said in a statement. "Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation."

Among the potential contenders that submitted bids but did not advance to the next phase are Portland and Cleveland, both of which an Irish bookmaker had given strong odds.

Amazon said it will spend the next several months diving further into the finalists' proposals to evaluate whether each city has the resources necessary to host the influx of new jobs. The company said it expects to make a final decision before the end of the year.

The company is looking for a site large enough to accommodate up to 50,000 workers making an average of $100,000 a year, a workforce so large and wealthy that it would fundamentally change whichever city is chosen as its host. Initial guidance issued last year said Amazon would look for access to a major airport and the appropriate infrastructure to handle such a massive influx of workers.

Amazon expects to invest more than $5 billion in the new headquarters, and so many new employees would in turn generate thousands of new jobs and billions in economic activity for the surrounding community.

Some critics of corporate giveaways have warned that Amazon's big talk is meant to lure valuable tax incentives and credits, and that those packages don't always generate as much economic activity as a company promises. Many point to Wisconsin, where a package of incentives given to open a new Foxconn manufacturing plant has ballooned to more than $4 billion.

Amazon has a long history of seeking and winning tax breaks from local and state governments when it builds new facilities. The state of Texas forgave a $269 million sales tax bill the company owed after it pledged to spend $200 million on new facilities in the state, which brought 2,500 new jobs. Illinois officials gave the company $82 million in tax credits, and the Ohio Tax Credit Authority approved a package of $81 million over the course of 15 years.

Kentucky officials offered $75 million for Amazon to expand operations at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in exchange for 600 new jobs that average $26 an hour, according to a database of megadeals maintained by Good Jobs First, a group that monitors state corporate giveaways.

The company maintains at least 257 sorting and distribution centers in 33 states, and Amazon officials say the incentives they win are worth the cost to local governments.