New York gets an HQ2, and DC gets an HQ too, because Amazon wants them to

After manufacturing 14 months of hype, Amazon ditched its plan to make 1 new HQ, instead expanding its presence in 2 existing offices.


November 7, 2018

After a year of hype, Amazon ended its search for a new HQ this week — without choosing a winner. Instead, Amazon announced it will open two separate offices: a New York office (in Long Island City) and a DC office (in Crystal City, VA). 

The anticlimactic conclusion to the ‘contest’ was a stroke of brilliant and ruthless PR, and it shows that top tech talent is becoming even more concentrated in the country’s biggest cities.

Amazon’s ‘competition’ was a PR power move 

By promising 50k jobs, $5B in direct construction investment, and a $6B+ economic boost for its new home, Amazon inspired 238 cities in the US, Mexico, and Canada to submit HQ2 proposals.

Tucson sent Amazon a giant cactus, the mayor of Kansas City bought 1k products on Amazon and left product reviews extolling the city, and Newark, NJ, offered more than $7B in incentives. 

Journalists reported on every phase of the project, and small cities pulled out all the stops to become the next big city in tech. 

‘You made a promise, Mr. Bezos. A promise’  

Instead of creating “a full equal to our current campus in Seattle,” Bezos chose instead to expand in two existing tech hubs.

Amazon already had 13 offices across the US, from Detroit, MI, to Tempe, AZ, when it announced its HQ2 ‘competition’ (and the largest of those was in New York).

It seems Amazon was never really looking to give a new city tech’s golden ticket: It was looking for a good deal — and that’s what it got in New York and DC. 

Two HQs, two talent pools

Now Amazon gets two Christmases (AKA, tax benefits in two cities). Both locations offer Amazon plentiful, subsidized office space — plus access to cocktail bars, SoulCycle, and other cool city stuff that would-be Amazon employees probably appreciate. 

More importantly, it taps into two of the biggest pools of tech talent, easing hiring troubles in the currently tight labor market.

Which is troubling news for budding startups that aren’t bicoastal: If a $1T-dollar company can’t attract enough techies outside of tech major cities, imagine how hard it is for everyone else…

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