Columbus still contender for Amazon’s second headquarters

By Joseph Pisani - AP Retail Writer

NEW YORK — Amazon has narrowed its hunt for a second headquarters to 20 locations, concentrated among cities in the U.S. East and Midwest. Toronto made the list as well, keeping the company’s international options open.

The online retailer said Thursday (Jan. 18) that after sorting through 238 proposals, the potential locations still include tech-strong places like Boston and New York. Other contenders include Chicago, Indianapolis, and Columbus, Ohio, in the Midwest.

Los Angeles was the only West Coast city on the list. Both Texas and Pennsylvania had two cities that made the cut: Austin, Dallas, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the South, Miami and Atlanta are being considered.

The other contenders: Denver, Washington D.C., Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; Northern Virginia, Virginia; and Raleigh, North Carolina. Inc. said it will make a final selection sometime this year.

The company’s announcement last fall that it was looking for a second home launched a fierce competition among cities looking to lure Amazon and its promise of 50,000 new jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion.

State and local governments played up the amenities they think make their locations the best choice for Amazon’s second headquarters.

The company had stipulated that it was seeking to be near a metropolitan area with more than a million people; be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand that headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.

But Amazon also made it very clear that it wanted tax breaks, grants and any other incentives.

Some state and local governments have made public the details of the financial incentives they are dangling. New Jersey’s pitch contains $7 billion in tax breaks and Boston’s offer includes $75 million for affordable housing for Amazon employees and others.

But many of the state and local governments competing for the headquarters have refused to disclose the tax breaks or other financial incentives they offered. More than 15 states and cities, including Chicago, turned down requests from The Associated Press to detail the promises they’ve made.

Several say they don’t want their competitors to know what they’re offering, a stance that open-government advocates criticized.

Amazon plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters and the second home base will be “a full equal” to it, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had said.

The extra space will help the rapidly-growing company, which It had nearly 542,000 employees at the end of September, a 77 percent jump from the year before. Some of that growth came from Amazon’s nearly $14 billion acquisition last year of natural foods grocer Whole Foods and its 89,000 employees.

By Joseph Pisani

AP Retail Writer