- Only seven states did not submit bids for Amazon’s second headquarters.
- Some local governments say that the company’s campus would be too large, even for their biggest metro areas.
- Seattle, Washington, the location of Amazon’s first headquarters, has experienced a population boom, rising housing prices, long periods of construction, and heavy traffic, due largely to an influx of tech workers.
When Amazon announced in September that it will create a $US5 billion headquarters and 50,000 jobs in an undetermined location, cities, states, and regions across North America rushed to explain why the company should pick them.
Even before proposals were due on October 19, several cities — big and small — launched wacky stunts to promote their bids. Officials from Tucson, Arizona, for example, mailed Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos a 21-foot-tall cactus, while Stonecrest, Georgia proclaimed it would rename its city after the company for HQ2.
But not every city — or state — is as excited about the opportunity.
Amazon received 238 proposals from 54 states, provinces, and districts. Just seven states — Arkansas, Hawaii, Montana, Vermont, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota — didn’t submit.
The state of Vermont decided not to send a proposal to Amazon because it knew that it wouldn’t meet all of the company’s RFP requirements — namely its preference for a population of at least 1 million, Michael Schirling, Vermont’s Commerce and Community Development secretary, told Business Insider. The state’s largest city, Burlington, has a mere 42,200 residents.
Vermont’s governor’s office also realises that the state’s infrastructure likely wouldn’t be able to handle 50,000 new jobs all at once, Schirling said. The influx of new residents would probably strain the local housing market, and lead to higher real estate prices. If Amazon came to Vermont, it would be more than six times larger than the state’s biggest employer, the University of Vermont Medical Center.
“You wouldn’t only need 50,000 workers, but you would also need a place to house 50,000 workers and roads for 50,000 workers,” Schirling said. “It’s a complex system.”
Governor offices in Wyoming and South Dakota gave similar explanations in emailed statements to BI.
“Although South Dakota has a great business climate, it was pretty clear from Amazon’s criteria that it is seeking to locate in a more urban setting,” Tony Venhuizen, the state’s chief of staff, said.
Arkansas also declined to submit bids for HQ2. Little Rock, Arkansas recently ran a full-page ad in The Washington Post — owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — explaining that the city didn’t meet many of the company’s requirements, like having a large population and an international airport.
Plus, Bentonville, Arkansas is already home to one of Amazon’s biggest competitors: Walmart. In September, Walmart announced plans to expand its Bentonville headquarters. This was a major reason why the state didn’t submit a bid, according to the governor’s office.
“With Walmart’s recent acquisition of Jet.com and the company’s blend of online and brick-and-mortar retail, one could easily make the case that Arkansas already plays host to e-commerce greatness,” Jeff Moore, EVP of Marketing and Communications at the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, told BI. “More simply put, Arkansas loves Walmart!”
State governments in Hawaii, Montana, and North Dakota did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Earlier in October, San Antonio, Texas, told Jeff Bezos in an open letter that “blindly giving away the farm isn’t our style.”
“It has to be the right fit, not just for the company but for the entire community. Does it create good jobs? Does it offer good benefits for employees? Are there opportunities for small businesses? Is the company a good ‘corporate citizen?'” Mayor Nirenberg and Bexar County judge Nelson Wolff co-wrote in the letter.
These concerns are not unfounded. Amazon has spurred an influx of residents, higher housing prices, and increased traffic in Seattle, the location of its first headquarters. Since 2000, Seattle’s metro area has added 99,000 new jobs, with 30% of them in tech, contributing to a construction boom.
But Amazon’s size hasn’t stopped other small cities from submitting bids. As CityLab notes, the HQ2 competition gives long-shot locations like Frisco, Texas (160,000 residents) and Danbury, Connecticut (80,800 residents) a chance to tout their corporate incentives and strengths in technology and innovation. Some small cities also joined together with neighbouring ones to form regional bids.
To show that Danbury is a worthy suitor for the company, the city published a video asking an Amazon Alexa “Where should Amazon HQ2 go?” To Danbury’s mayor, Alexa responds, “Danbury, Connecticut.” The video also lays out the city’s advantages, including a “great quality of life,” a “fast and efficient permit process,” and its business-friendly environment.
“The exposure and attention that the video … has gotten is positive no matter the outcome. Some other business could say, ‘look at that, look at what that city has,'” Stephen Nocera, Danbury’s Director of Project Excellence, told CityLab.