Absences, Surprises in Amazon’s Final List of 20 Cities for HQ2

And then there were 20.

Amazon has winnowed down the field of 238 submissions from communities around North America vying to host a second headquarters (HQ2) of the Seattle-based tech giant. Most large cities with existing or emerging tech hubs appear on the list, from Austin, TX, and Boston, MA, to Washington, DC, and Toronto, Canada—the only non-U.S. city to make the finals.

There were a few notable absences from the list, released early today. Detroit, MI, which had high expectations as a competitor, was left out, as was Madison, WI, and most of California. San Diego and San Francisco both didn’t make the cut, though Los Angeles did.

Of course, Amazon maintains satellite offices throughout the U.S. In San Diego, for example, CEO Mark Cafferty of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. expressed disappointment at missing the cut for HQ2. But in a statement today, Cafferty also noted that Amazon has been expanding its operations in San Diego and plans to employ as many as 500 developers and engineers there. It’s worth noting that Amazon has kept the purpose of its San Diego operations mostly under wraps, although The San Diego Union-Tribune suggests the operation appears to be focused on game development.

Houston, meanwhile, was left off, but Dallas is joining Austin in representing the Lone Star state. (For what it’s worth, San Antonio backed out early.)

Nashville, TN, Pittsburgh, PA, and Newark, NJ, are finalists that aren’t often included in discussions about tech hubs, though each have everything Amazon asked for, such as professional workforce, land, and incentives.

Amazon plans to make a selection later this year.

In the request for proposals it sprung upon the continent last fall, Amazon outlined a massive investment and influx of high-paying jobs for the city that won the HQ2 prize. Cities have offered the company enticements from tax breaks to job-training grants to money for utilities. (The whole process has drawn criticism from some who see the company playing cities against each other to squeeze out the biggest giveaways of public funds.) Amazon says it will invest $5 billion to build HQ2 and bring as many as 50,000 jobs to the city it picks.

Access to humans with technology training will be a key part of Amazon’s decision, and its new HQ2 will likely make the winning city a company town, as it has done to Seattle. While Amazon’s growth in Seattle has come with some drawbacks, from traffic to cost of living, technologists in Seattle told Xconomy in January that the benefits outweighed the costs.

Here’s the full list of 20 cities that Amazon selected. Notably, Austin and Toronto have both been pointed to as favorites for the new headquarters.

—Atlanta, GA

—Austin, TX*

—Boston, MA*

—Chicago, IL

—Columbus, OH

—Dallas, TX*

—Denver, CO*

—Indianapolis, IN*

—Los Angeles, CA

—Miami, FL

—Montgomery County, MD

—Nashville, TN

—Newark, NJ*

—New York City, NY*

—Northern Virginia, VA

—Philadelphia, PA

—Pittsburgh, PA

—Raleigh, NC*

—Toronto, ON

—Washington, DC

*Cities covered by the Xconomy network.

(Xconomy San Diego Editor Bruce V. Bigelow contributed to this report.)

David Holley is Xconomy's national correspondent based in Austin, TX. You can reach him at dholley@xconomy.com Follow @xconholley

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