Last week, Amazon announced
that it will solicit bids from North American cities to be home to the company’s second headquarters, expecting to eventually house as many as 50,000 employees in this location.
But as U.S. cities scramble to outbid one another in their effort to lure Amazon, they’re failing to consider one distinct possibility: Bezos called for bids in North America.
Amazon already has a big presence in Montreal and has been ramping up its Toronto presence over the past year. We’ve recently seen the likes of Google and Uber open significant global research outposts in Toronto, so it would come as no surprise if Amazon followed suit.
As a global businessman, Jeff Bezos is setting his sights far beyond the US. Here are the key reasons he should pick Toronto to house Amazon’s next HQ.
Toronto checks Bezos’ boxes
Amazon is seeking a city of more than 1 million people with an international airport, mass transit, an educated workforce and a solid business climate with notable job growth. Toronto easily meets all of these criteria.
The city’s booming population benefits from quality transportation and infrastructure: Toronto boasts two international airports, a hyper-connected public transit system, and a global distribution network via its vast waterfront. Amazon has requested a whopping one hundred acres to build its HQ — a size that few U.S. cities could accommodate. Toronto, however, could house Amazon on its waterfront, a central urban location with global shipping access.
Beyond urban infrastructure, Amazon could benefit from Toronto’s highly educated workforce. Not only is the city home to the University of Toronto — a globally ranked university with nearly 90,000 students — but also retains 17 other leading research institutions within the greater Toronto area. These organisations feed directly into local businesses and corporates, which are celebrating “remarkably strong
” job growth. And Amazon — seeking 50,000 employees not just from tech, but also marketing, fulfillment, and other industries — will have an educated and engaged talent pool to hire from.
But these basic criteria are table stakes, and many US cities will meet Amazon’s standards. What sets Toronto apart are its diverse culture, strong government support, and thriving tech community.
Canada’s diversity represents Amazon’s global business
And no city better represents a global company with an international customer base than Toronto.
Toronto has been named the most diverse city in the world, and is a cultural haven for fresh foreign talent. As Trump’s harsh immigration policies drive tech workers out of the U.S., Trudeau is luring the world’s best and brightest to Canada with his open immigration policies. In fact, Canada’s expedited work permit program is bringing tech talent to Toronto in record numbers.
Bezos has openly criticised Trump’s stance on immigration and is seeking an inclusive workforce and policies that protect his employees. No U.S. city can offer Bezos that stability, and with Trump actively threatening Amazon, Bezos is likely to expand northward to ensure access to top talent while gaining a stronger foothold internationally.
Toronto tech is on the rise
But perhaps most appealing to Amazon is Toronto’s booming technology sector. As Trump slashes the budget for innovation, Trudeau is actively supporting it — committing billions of the federal budget to build Canada’s tech industry.
And Toronto is seeing the benefits. The city added 22,500 new tech jobs in the last two years — more than New York City and Silicon Valley combined. Amazon could fit right into Toronto’s thriving tech ecosystem — which is home to over 4,000 active tech startups, the world’s largest innovation hub, and home-grown successes like Slack and Shopify. And these companies aren’t just coming, they’re staying. Toronto is ranked one of the world’s best cities to recruit, relocate and retain employees.
To be sure, my city will face stiff competition with U.S. cities. But as an American expat myself, I’m confident that nowhere in the U.S. can offer Amazon the cultural diversity, government support, and the thriving tech community that Toronto provides. So as you watch cities battle it out for Amazon’s affection, don’t overlook your neighbours to the north. Bezos certainly won’t.
Karen Greve Young is VP of Corporate Development and Partnerships at the MaRS Discovery District