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Amazon HQ2 Odds: Which City Will Win the Bid?

Alex Kilpatrick

by Alex Kilpatrick in Entertainment

Updated Mar 1, 2018 · 10:08 AM PST

Amazon HQ in Seattle
Amazon's first headquarters, in Seattle. Photo by Joe Wolf (Flickr) [CC License].

UPDATE (2/28/2018): Amazon is leasing an 18-story building in Boston and hiring ~2,000 Boston-based employees, according to this report. While that isn’t exactly final, it does indicate that Amazon is at least interested in Boston, who were already among our favorites.

It’s also maybe an indicator that Amazon is going to take a “little of column A, little of column B” approach to HQ2. Use Boston’s office space and tax breaks for tech employees, use Atlanta’s transport hubs for logistics stuff, and use Austin as a micro-dosing mandatory holding center for creative types.

We’ve updated the odds below to make Boston the outright favorite, and take a little out of the other top contenders.

Amazon is very publicly looking for somewhere to puts its second headquarters, aptly named HQ2. With this, they’re promising a huge investment and 50,000 jobs of ostensibly good quality. Dozens of cities have submitted proposals to host Amazon’s expansion, and recently the company released its list of 20 finalists. Being …

Odds on Amazon’s HQ2 location

  • Boston: 5/1 (previously 8/1)
  • Atlanta: 10/1 (previously 7/1)
  • Austin: 14/1 (previously 12/1)
  • Denver: 14/1 (previously 12/1)
  • Washington, D.C.: 14/1
  • New York City: 14/1
  • Chicago: 14/1
  • Dallas: 18/1
  • Philadelphia: 18/1
  • Newark, N.J: 22/1
  • Raleigh, N.C: 22/1
  • Pittsburgh: 22/1
  • Miami: 22/1
  • Nashville: 22/1
  • Toronto: 26/1
  • Columbus: 26/1
  • Indianapolis: 33/1
  • Los Angeles: 33/1
  • Montgomery County, Maryland: 40/1
  • Northern Virginia: 40/1

There are two ways to think about this: either Amazon has already selected the site for HQ2 and is using this public spectacle to extract concessions from the local government, or it’s genuinely looking for whichever city will hand over the most in incentives. If it’s the former, cities like Austin, Denver, and Nashville, which are lovely enough to promote their cities on their own merits, become the favorites. If Amazon is looking for the biggest tax break possible, Newark jumps to the front, as New Jersey’s largest city put together an incentives package that dwarfs anything else on offer. As a middle ground, Atlanta and Chicago are offering ten figures in incentives, and also have some charms of their own. Ferris Bueller didn’t take his day off in Indianapolis, did he?

Also worth considering: airports. Amazon is more or less a fancy shipping logistics company, so having a good, central transportation hub is vital, particularly if that city happens to be on the other side of the country from HQ1. For this reason, some consider Atlanta to be the favorite: it’s also the seat of Coca-Cola and UPS, has a low cost of living, and has access to a lot of tech talent and universities. Atlanta’s a great all rounder: it’s not the #1 in universities/tech talent (where Boston likely takes the cake), it’s not the biggest shipping hub on the list (Miami is the country’s second-busiest freight airport and the Port of Miami is the closest east coast port to the Panama Canal), and it’s not offering the most incentives. Any list you care to make, however, has Atlanta at or near the top.

There are a number of cities submitting secret bids, so it’s difficult to evaluate how competitive they are.

Slab and Sphere at Amazon HQ, Seattle
The Sphere and the Slab of Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle. Photo by Joe Wolf (Flickr) [CC License].

O/U jump in residential real-estate prices in winning metro area: 7.5%

A big part of the reason some cities are so thirsty for Amazon’s approval is the accompanying property-value spike that could result from the city being chosen. A big part of the reason a lot of activists don’t want the company to set up shop is that Amazon employees may have inflated home prices in Seattle and pushed the previous communities out.

Home prices in Seattle’s South Union have jumped by as much as 83% in the seven years since Amazon fortified its base there. Don’t expect that big of a number again: that timeline matches the timeline of the US’s recovery from the biggest housing crisis in its history, and US home prices reached their nadir in 2012. Home prices in almost every major urban centre have risen in this period, and Seattle is no different.

The national average for annual growth in housing price for cities floats around 6%, so we can add Amazon’s huge investment to get a slightly bigger number.

Odds to win HQ2 AND a major sports championship by 2021

Just counting the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, Boston is the huge favorite here: their major sports teams vary from competitive to annoyingly dominant, and even the Curse of the Bambino was lifted. New York gets a nod because they have two of every team and the Yankees are ahead of schedule on their rebuild. Following (some distance) behind is Atlanta, who have a good NFL team and were one quarter away from a Super Bowl just a year ago.

  • Boston: 15/1
  • New York City: 20/1
  • Atlanta: 22/1
  • Chicago: 25/1
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