Amazon has narrowed down the list of candidates for its second headquarters to 20 cities.
The Seattle-based tech giant sparked a bidding war last year when it announced plans to build a new 8 million-square-foot campus that would cost $5 billion and create up to 50,000 new jobs.
Here are the cities that made the cut for what’s become known as Amazon HQ2:
- Austin, Texas
- Columbus, Ohio
- Los Angeles
- Montgomery County, Maryland
- Nashville, Tennessee
- Newark, New Jersey
- New York City
- Northern Virginia
- Raleigh, North Carolina
- Toronto, Ontario
- Washington D.C.
The finalists were chosen from 238 bids submitted by cities and regions across the U.S., plus Canada and Mexico.
Amazon said in a statement that it will dive deeper into the remaining bids in the coming months and plans to make a final decision later this year.
Experts say it is a guessing game as to which city Amazon will ultimately choose, but there are a number of factors Amazon outlined as key components of a winning bid, including public transportation, available construction sites, a potential workforce and tax incentives.
One factor not included in the official criteria — where Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos lives.
“We know headquarters locations are driven by where the CEO has a home,” said Richard Florida, a professor and researcher who studies urban development.
Florida sees Washington, D.C., as a frontrunner among the finalists announced Thursday. Three of the finalists are in the D.C. metro area and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos already owns the Washington Post and a home in the nation’s capital.
On the other hand, Bezos also owns condos in Manhattan and Beverly Hills, California, which could boost the chances for Newark, New Jersey; New York or Los Angeles.
Nearly half the contenders are on the East Coast, which may be more attractive given Amazon’s current headquarters are on the West Coast.
But there would be advantages to choosing a city in the middle of the country. There is more available land and cost of living is cheaper. Plus, most cities outside of the two coasts are smaller.
Amazon would “have more influence, and one of the things Amazon likes is to be the big fish,” Florida said.
Still, there is an ongoing debate over whether winning Amazon HQ2 would be beneficial in the long term.
In the first round of bidding, cities offered significant and sometimes outlandish perks for Amazon. A town outside Atlanta said it would let the company take some of its land and create a new city named Amazon, for example. New Jersey offered $7 billion in tax breaks.
“Amazon HQ2 has created a complete feeding frenzy among cities who are really excited about the opportunity to land this global iconic brand in their community,” Amy Liu, director of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, said. “I do think, for all its potential benefits, there’s a real price to pay.”
Tax incentives do not always pay off in the long run, and Liu argues cities should instead be using that money to encourage new startups and help businesses already established in the city grow.
Others say the benefits from Amazon HQ2 will be multiplied across a region’s economy, making the headquarters worth the cost.
“The coffee shop and the hair salon and millions of others [will all see] more activity,” site selection consultant Jay Biggins told the NewsHour in November. “They’re all spending more because they’re making more.”
Concerns have also been raised that Amazon will exacerbate existing problems such as rising housing prices and congested traffic, but Liu said there is a scenario where both Amazon and the chosen city can come out on top.
“Now that they have been chosen, I hope these cities present themselves in a way that protects their interests and ensures the benefits are shared by every neighborhood and every resident,” Liu said. “That requires a lot intentionality, but it’s possible.”
Cities vying to be the next home for Amazon have also received significant publicity during the process. Amazon said it would consider locations that were not chosen as finalists for future investments.