Amazon Plans To Open Second Headquarters With 50,000 Jobs

Sep 7, 2017
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Amazon has been on a tear in recent months. It just closed a high-profile deal to buy the grocery chain Whole Foods. It's working to fulfill a pledge of hiring a hundred thousand more people in the U.S. And now Amazon says it will open a second headquarters in a new city. NPR's Alina Selyukh joins us with details of this plan. And, Alina, what exactly is Amazon looking to build?

ALINA SELYUKH, BYLINE: So Amazon's campus in Seattle - let's take that first. It's kind of legendary. It's massive, more than 8 million square feet in the heart of the city. It's towering and elaborate. They're building a park under a dome, for example. And the company often uses it to test new concepts like a shop where you get charged for purchases automatically through sensors rather than having to go through a checkout register. So now Amazon says they want to build another campus somewhere in North America. They're calling it HQ2. And they say it would be a, quote, "full equal" to the Seattle headquarters.

SIEGEL: What does that mean for cities that might be interested in attracting this kind of business?

SELYUKH: Amazon is essentially asking cities, states, provinces across North America to bid for this opportunity. The company has a pretty detailed list of what they're looking for in a site. It should be not too far from an international airport, close to a major highway, accessible by mass transit. They're looking for metro areas with more than 1 million people, though not necessarily like a city center location. In essence, somewhere where people will want to live and work if they're employed by a massive global tech company.

SIEGEL: Well, obviously the attraction of having a giant corporation like Amazon in your city is presumably the promise of new jobs, investment. Is this what Amazon is offering cities?

SELYUKH: That's exactly it. Amazon's release has this detailed math on their operation in Seattle. And they have tallied that since 2010, the company has added $38 billion to Seattle's economy. And there are 40,000 people who work on that campus. So Amazon is saying this new location could create as many as 50,000 new, well-paying jobs and more than $5 billion in capital investment just in the first 15, 17 years.

SIEGEL: Now, historically, many corporate expansions and relocations have been accompanied by financial incentives from local governments - tax incentives, that sort of thing. Do we expect that to be true in the case of Amazon?

SELYUKH: I think so. We've seen that with many companies, as you point out, most recently the controversial story of the electronics supplier Foxconn. They're planning a $10 billion factory in Wisconsin after getting $3 billion in tax subsidies from the state. As for Amazon, it has also been benefiting from tax breaks across the country as it's been building out its network of warehouses. So, yes, observers definitely expect a race to offer Amazon some deal sweeteners - maybe lower fees, free land, some kind of a grant or a tax cut, as you say. And curiously, the company is very clear in saying that financial incentives would be significant factors in picking the location.

SIEGEL: So do we know which locations are likely to jump into this race?

SELYUKH: There's a lot of names out there. A few cities have already expressed interest. They're saying that they're considering places like Boston, Columbus, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit. Up north in Canada there's Toronto. Amazon is giving everyone just six weeks to submit their proposals. We should know the decision next year.

SIEGEL: NPR's Alina Selyukh, thanks.

SELYUKH: Thank you.

SIEGEL: And in the interest of full disclosure, we should note that Amazon is one of NPR's financial supporters. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.