Amazon Chooses Two Cities For New Headquarters In NYC And Northern Virginia

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It has been over a year since Amazon announced that it was looking to establish a second headquarters in a new city. Here are the specific criteria the candidate cities had to meet:

  1. Population of at least 1 million people
  2. A stable, business-friendly environment
  3. Urban or suburban location that could sustain strong, technical talent
  4. Communities that think big and creatively with regard to real estate options

MarketWatch narrowed it down to the top 11 candidate cities. Remember, this was when Amazon was suggesting only one city would be chosen. MarketWatch got one of the cities actually chosen by Amazon. But it did not make their top five. The other city did not make the list at all.

Thanks to a scoop from WSJ, we now know the two (not one) cities Amazon has chosen. NBC News has the specifics.

“Amazon is expected to make the announcement that it has selected Long Island City in Queens and Crystal City in Arlington County, Virginia, as early as Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the news citing anonymous sources.”

Two cities won the lottery played by more than 230 contenders. One of the cities does not come close to the population criterion. Neither city was the obvious choice. And many have questioned whether this was even a real contest of merit.

NYT wondered in print if the entire headquarters competition was nothing more than a bait-and-switch.

“Amazon’s critics were apoplectic at what they called a bait-and-switch.

“‘I was shocked,’ said Robert B. Engel of the Free & Fair Markets Initiative, a nonprofit that is a determined foe of the retailer on all fronts. ‘They’ve duped more than the bidders. They’ve duped all of us. They can’t even live up to a promise that wasn’t fair to anyone but Amazon.'”

Amazon would not be the first to engage in a bit of publicity at the expense of U.S. cities vying for some perceived benefit from the company. In 2010 before the original iPad was even released, Google announced its intentions to experiment with producing their own broadband. The catch was that they would only do so in cities that showed the most interest. Hoping to top that list, Topeka, Kansas, officially renamed themselves Google, Kansas.

There is a good chance that as long as cities are willing to humiliate themselves to draw corporate interest, there will be companies willing to humiliate them. What’s interesting is that we have seen this cycle come around many times, only to see companies force bad deals with too many concessions that can never pay off for the city or state. The Foxconn situation in Wisconsin is a current example. Only time will tell if NYC and Northern Virginia will get their money and dignity’s worth.