Home / News & Analysis / 6 US Cities Amazon Should Consider for its Second HQ

6 US Cities Amazon Should Consider for its Second HQ

Amazon has gotten too big for Seattle. Now it's looking to build a second headquarters somewhere in North America, and it's taking suggestions.

This morning, Amazon started soliciting offers from metropolitan areas to host a new campus for up to 50,000 employees. This "HQ2" would become a co-equal headquarters to Amazon's giant Seattle setup, the company says. The headquarters must be no more than 30 miles from a major population center and no more than 45 minutes from an international airport.

The prize here will be big, with tens of thousands of jobs and over $5 billion in investment. Expect cities and states to start falling all over each other with tax incentives and land deals. Bids are due by Oct. 19, and Amazon will make its decision next year.

Amazon has demands. Here's what it wants:

  • Metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people
  • A stable and business-friendly environment
  • Urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent
  • Communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options

I think Amazon probably wants to get away from the West Coast, which would count out options like San Diego, Boise, Phoenix, and Denver. The expensive, crowded main metro areas of the Northeast Corridor also seem to me to be unlikely winners, because Amazon can get much more for its money elsewhere.

These are my top six suggestions, in order, of where Amazon might land in the US:

1. Kansas City

Kansas City

Possibly the nation's most underrated tech hub, Kansas City was one of the first Google Fiber markets and is home to Sprint. The city has terrific internet connectivity, it has been nurturing tech startups in the Crossroads neighborhood, land is affordable, the airport has nonstop flights to all the right places, and the local government has a very pro-tech stance. Kansas City's primary downside is its lack of international flights. "Kansas City International Airport" holds its title because of flights to Toronto and Cancun, which isn't the globe-spanning range Amazon wants.

2. Dallas-Fort Worth

Dallas

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is the fourth-largest metro area in the US, with more than 6 million people. It has its own tech titan in Samsung, and it's just down the road from Austin, a vibrant tech hub. It's centrally located and has one of the nation's major airports.

The Fort Worth side of the Metroplex is going through some major changes right now, with the city redeveloping downtown with a riverwalk, lakes, canals, and apartment buildings—turning the former city of stockyards into a real urban center. There's a major new entertainment district planned for 2024, and frequent commuter rail connects the city to central Dallas.

Dallas is a bit more expensive, and a bit further along in terms of development. It's positively buzzing as an urban hub, with world-class dining and nightlife, a growing public transit system, and a diverse population. That would be an easy move for Amazon.

3. Minneapolis

Minneapolis

Minneapolis has long been a center for health tech, with the Mayo Clinic nearby. It's also the home of two of Amazon's major competitors, Target and Best Buy. Within the past year, according to the Star-Tribune, it's become a startup center as well, with startup accelerators settling in the Twin Cities. Minneapolis has a vibrant downtown and a real international airport with flights to Europe and Asia.

The city has a few down sides. Winter weather is famously awful. Amazon may not want to be too close to its major competitors. And Minnesota's employment market is so strong that Amazon would probably have to import employees from the rest of the US, rather than tapping into an existing local worker pool.

4. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is on the verge of being cool again. The city has two powerhouse universities, one of which—Carnegie Mellon—specializes in technology, with great potential synergies for Amazon. There's a vibrant nightlife (thanks to those universities), housing is affordable, and Amazon could say that it's revitalizing the Rust Belt. Pittsburgh is also a drivable distance from Amazon's Cincinnati cargo hub.

Pittsburgh's down side is that it isn't a transit hub. Its airport has shrunk from its glory days, and there isn't even a nonstop flight to Seattle. Its "international" flights are to Toronto, Cancun, Frankfurt, and Reykjavik. Amazon may want better connectivity.

5. Cincinnati

Cincinnati

Mobile Nations' Derek Kessler suggests Cinci because Amazon already has a major investment there: a $1.5 billion dollar cargo hub. Cinci is certainly affordable, with a historic downtown that's been in the midst of redevelopment.

Cincinnati's greatest weakness is that it's terminally uncool. The city lacks high-profile universities or a nationally known arts, entertainment, or technology scene. Its reputation for being a quiet, relaxing place to raise a family is a minus when competing with places like San Francisco for young techies. The city also has awful public transportation, and Amazon likes public transit.

6. Charlotte

Charlotte

Probably the best East Coast pick, Charlotte is a finance and financial-technology center with affordable land, an educated workforce, and a great airport.

Charlotte's down side is that, like Cincinnati, it really lacks urban cachet for a company that prides itself on its urban experiments. The North Carolina state government has also been at loggerheads with Amazon over development of a wind farm and the state's previous anti-gay HB2 law, and Jeff Bezos may just not want to do a deal there.

Read more

Check Also

Does Google’s Duplex violate two-party consent laws?

Google’s Duplex, which calls businesses on your behalf and imitates a real human, ums and ahs included, has sparked a bit of controversy among privacy advocates. Doesn’t Google recording a person’s voice and sending it to a data center for analysis violate two-party consent law, which requires everyone in a conversation to agree to being recorded? The answer isn’t immediately clear, and Google’s silence isn’t helping. Let’s take California’s law as the example, since that’s the state where Google is based and where it used the system. Penal Code section 632 forbids recording any “confidential communication” (defined more or less as any non-public conversation) without the consent of all parties. (The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press has a good state-by-state guide to these laws.) Google has provided very little in the way of details about how Duplex actually works, so attempting to answer this question involves a certain amount of informed speculation. To begin with I’m going to consider all phone calls as “confidential” for the purposes of the law. What constitutes a reasonable expectation of privacy is far from settled, and some will have it that you there isn’t such an expectation when making an appointment with a salon. But what about a doctor’s office, or if you need to give personal details over the phone? Though some edge cases may qualify as public, it’s simpler and safer (for us and for Google) to treat all phone conversations as confidential. What we know about Google’s Duplex demo so far As a second assumption, it seems clear that, like most Google services, Duplex’s work takes place in a data center somewhere, not locally on your device. So fundamentally there is a requirement in the system that the other party’s audio will be recorded and sent in some form to that data center for processing, at which point a response is formulated and spoken. On its face it sounds bad for Google. There’s no way the system is getting consent from whomever picks up the phone. That would spoil the whole interaction — “This call is being conducted by a Google system using speech recognition and synthesis; your voice will be analyzed at Google data centers. Press 1 or say ‘I consent’ to consent.” I would have hung up after about two words. The whole idea is to mask the fact that it’s an AI system at all, so getting consent that way won’t work. But there’s wiggle room as far as the consent requirement in how the audio is recorded, transmitted and stored. After all, there are systems out there that may have to temporarily store a recording of a person’s voice without their consent — think of a VoIP call that caches audio for a fraction of a second in case of packet loss. There’s even a specific cutout in the law for hearing aids, which if you think about it do in fact do “record” private conversations. Temporary copies produced as part of a legal, beneficial service aren’t the target of this law. This is partly because the law is about preventing eavesdropping and wiretapping, not preventing any recorded representation of conversation whatsoever that isn’t explicitly authorized. Legislative intent is important. “There’s a little legal uncertainty there, in the sense of what degree of permanence is required to constitute eavesdropping,” said Mason Kortz, of Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. “The big question is what is being sent to the data center and how is it being retained. If it’s retained in the condition that the original conversation is understandable, that’s a violation.” For instance, Google could conceivably keep a recording of the call, perhaps for AI training purposes, perhaps for quality assurance, perhaps for users’ own records (in case of time slot dispute at the salon, for example). They do retain other data along these lines. But it would be foolish. Google has an army of lawyers and consent would have been one of the first things they tackled in the deployment of Duplex. For the onstage demos it would be simple enough to collect proactive consent from the businesses they were going to contact. But for actual use by consumers the system needs to engineered with the law in mind. What would a functioning but legal Duplex look like? The conversation would likely have to be deconstructed and permanently discarded immediately after intake, the way audio is cached in a device like a hearing aid or a service like digital voice transmission. A closer example of this is Amazon, which might have found itself in violation of COPPA, a law protecting children’s data, whenever a kid asked an Echo to play a Raffi song or do long division. The FTC decided that as long as Amazon and companies in that position immediately turn the data into text and then delete it afterwards, no harm and, therefore, no violation. That’s not an exact analogue to Google’s system, but it is nonetheless instructive. “It may be possible with careful design to extract the features you need without keeping the original, in a way where it’s mathematically impossible to recreate the recording,” Kortz said. If that process is verifiable and there’s no possibility of eavesdropping — no chance any Google employee, law enforcement officer or hacker could get into the system and intercept or collect that data — then potentially Duplex could be deemed benign, transitory recording in the eye of the law. That assumes a lot, though. Frustratingly, Google could clear this up with a sentence or two. It’s suspicious that the company didn’t address this obvious question with even a single phrase, like Sundar Pichai adding during the presentation that “yes, we are compliant with recording consent laws.” Instead of people wondering if, they’d be wondering how. And of course we’d all still be wondering why. We’ve reached out to Google multiple times on various aspects of this story, but for a company with such talkative products, they sure clammed up fast.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer: Trading in bitcoins or other digital currencies carries a high level of risk and can result in the total loss of the invested capital. theonlinetech.org does not provide investment advice, but only reflects its own opinion. Please ensure that if you trade or invest in bitcoins or other digital currencies (for example, investing in cloud mining services) you fully understand the risks involved! Please also note that some external links are affiliate links.