US cities up ante in fight for next Amazon HQ

The Amazon Spheres are due to open early this year in Seattle.

Amazon is being offered hundreds of millions of dollars, the right to decide how to spend taxpayers’ money and the chance to name a city after itself as US regions compete for the retail giant’s new headquarters. 

A contest held by Amazon to find the site of its second HQ, which could bring investment worth $US5 billion ($6.4 billion), drew more than 200 entries. After months of rumours that an announcement was imminent the online retailer is expected to publish a shortlist of finalist cities this month.

California proposed up to $US1 billion in tax breaks should Amazon choose a city in the golden state.

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Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor, upped the ante by backing a measure that could give the company up to $US5 billion of incentives.

The city of Fresno added to the California offer, promising to put 85% of taxes generated into a special fund that the company would partly administer. Parks would be labelled with signs “brought to you by Amazon”.

Amazon online retail Australia

Cities are falling over themselves to secure Amazon’s next headquarters.

In Georgia the town of Stonecrest says it would be willing to rename itself in honour of the company.

Mayor Jason Lary says: “How could you not want your 21st-century headquarters to be located in a city named Amazon?”

With a population of 53,000, however, it remains a longshot. Amazon’s ideal site would be in a city of more than a million people with an urban campus, it has said.

The winning location can expect the world’s largest online retailer by revenue to invest $US5 billion and to create as many as 50,000 jobs that pay six-figure salaries.

Between 2010 and 2016 Amazon generated an additional $US38 billion for the city of Seattle, where it is based, according to the company’s estimates.

Amazon warehouse industrial Melbourne

Amazon’s presence generates tens of thousands of jobs for the cities in which it is based.

Atlanta, Georgia, and Austin, Texas, are the bookmakers’ favourites. Boston, which is also tipped, has offered to provide the Amazon campus with workers seconded from the city to help the company to recruit from schools and apply for permits.

Some commentators are sceptical at the rush to court Amazon, which is already subsidised by taxpayers. The US Postal Service charges the company $US1.46 less per delivery than fair value, according to Citigroup.

Donald Trump tweeted last week: “Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer? Should be charging MUCH MORE!”

Bill Clinton’s home town of Little Rock, Arkansas, was unimpressed by the contest. Its government took out a full page in The Washington Post, which is owned by Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s boss, declaring its intention not to submit a proposal. “It’s not you, it’s us,” the advert said. “We’re happy knowing that many great companies find our natural good looks, coupled with our brains for business irresistible, with no perks required.”

The Times

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