Crazy Tax Breaks Help Put These 20 Cities on the Shortlist for the New Amazon Headquarters

Have you heard of this little company called Amazon? We kid. We’re sure you’ve heard of the company that’s changing everything and making founder and CEO Jeff Bezos filthy rich. Well, Amazon is so big it needs a second headquarters. Cities across North America crave the company’s $5 billion investment and the promise of thousands of high-paying jobs, though the city picked as the new Amazon headquarters might eventually regret it. Still, 20 cities are finalists and by the end of 2018, we’ll know for sure where the company is setting up shop. What are these 20 cities offering Amazon that others aren’t? Let’s find out.

We’ll tackle the finalists alphabetically, just so we don’t give the impression we know which one will be picked (though we think the cities on pages 11, 15, and 20 are solid bets).

1. Atlanta

A Welcome to Atlanta sign in the Atlanta airport
The Atlanta suburb of Stonecrest has offered to rename itself Amazon. | wellesenterprises/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 472,522

Stonecrest, Ga., near Atlanta promises to rename itself Amazon if the company moves there, and it’s offering 345 acres, too. But in reality, it’s Atlanta’s surplus of developable land and Georgia’s tax breaks for job creation and investment that make Atlanta a finalist.

Next: Amazon is a major player in this city already.

2. Austin, Texas

Austin Texas Reflections Lady Bird Lake
Austin is a tech-friendly city. | RoschetzkyIstockPhoto/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 947,890

Buying Whole Foods around the same time it announced the second headquarters might have been coincidental, but people can’t help but think Amazon is moving to Austin. The area is already home to one major tech company (Dell), so Amazon knows it’s a tech-friendly city. The city reportedly didn’t offer any special perks, but Texas is ready with tax breaks if Amazon moves there.

Next: Amazon wants college talent, and this city’s got it.

3. Boston

Boston University Campus
Amazon would have no trouble finding qualified employees in Boston. | Brian Chang-Yun Hsu/Wikimedia Commons

Estimated population: 673,184

Tax breaks were a big part of Boston’s initial bid for the new Amazon headquarters. However, since cities don’t want to show their hands and Amazon’s search is all a bit hush-hush, the exact figures are secret.

One perk Boston offers that few competitors can match is access to elite college talent. The expensive universities in and around Boston churning out the best and brightest include Boston University, Brandeis, Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, and Tufts.

Next: A whopper of a tax incentive proposed by this city.

4. Chicago

Chicago, Illinois
Chicago is offering Amazon more than $1 billion in tax credits. | Ibsky/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 2.7 million

The state is broke and the current governor is one of the most-hated in the country, but Chicago makes Amazon’s short list for billions of reasons. According to Chicago Reader, Amazon would keep the income taxes its employees would otherwise give to the state, estimated to be at least $1.32 billion each year. Not a bad tax incentive at all.

Next: This city’s offer is out there for everyone to see.

5. Columbus, Ohio

The Scioto river reflects Downtown Columbus Ohio
Columbus has put together a full package of tax incentives to lure Amazon. | David Rigg/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 860,090

Ohio’s capital city let the world know what it’s offering if it’s picked for the new Amazon headquarters. According to the Columbus Navigator, the city is offering:

  • No property tax payments for 15 years.
  • An incentive package based on how much Amazon employees pay in Columbus city taxes. Thirty-five percent of those taxes will go back to the company over the first 15 years, with limits of $50 million a year and $400 million total.
  • Starting in Amazon’s 16th year in the city through year 30, 25% of the city taxes paid by the company’s employees go back to Amazon as part of a land acquisition and development fund. Limits of $5 million annually and $75 million total apply.

Next: No state income tax is one of the perks.

6. Dallas

A general view of the Dallas skyline
The Lone Star State’s business-friendly environment might make it appealing to Amazon. | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Estimated population: 1.32 million

Texas has a business-friendly environment, and Dallas has lots of development sites for the new Amazon headquarters. In addition to no state income taxes, Texas offers broad incentives and Dallas can set its own property taxes. Those are some attractive factors, but the city only has so much leeway. It can’t waive Amazon’s property taxes for long stretches of time, according to the Texas Tribune.

Next: One $1,200 incentive the other contenders don’t offer.

7. Denver

Denver is offering employee training grants. | F11photo/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 693,060

Colorado and its capital city aren’t divulging much about their bid to Amazon, but we know a few specifics. The Denver Post reports a $1,200 per employee training grant is part of the proposal, along with the state’s job creation and investment tax credits.

Next: A dark horse contender.

8. Indianapolis

Indianapolis, Indiana
Indianapolis has poor public transit, which could hurt its bid. | Coy St. Clair/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 855,164

Indiana’s job creation, investment, and enterprise zone tax credits are all on the table in the fight for the new Amazon headquarters. Poor public transit hurts the Indianapolis bid, but low housing costs, short commutes, and a wide selection of sites make it a dark horse contender.

Next: Higher education is a plus.

9. Los Angeles

Los Angeles
L.A. has a lot to offer, but high housing prices and long commutes could be a problem. | Choness/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 3.98 million

First, let’s talk about Los Angeles’ pluses:

  • Highly educated college graduates at USC, UCLA, and Caltech.
  • Nine potential sites, with two — Warner Center and Newhall Ranch — combining for more than 41 million square feet of commercial space.

However, Los Angeles has its share of shortfalls, including:

  • It’s expensive and the urban sprawl makes for lousy commute times.
  • Public transit is lacking, especially compared to fellow finalists such as Boston, Chicago, and New York.
  • Only about 2.4% of adults work in the computing field, compared to about 6 percent in Austin, according to The Real Deal.

Next: Checking all the right boxes, but Mother Nature has a say.

10. Miami

Miami, Florida,
Could rising sea levels doom Miami’s bid? | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 453,579

Amazon is looking for locations within 30 miles of population centers, within 45 minutes of major airports, and just one to two miles from interstates. Miami checks off those boxes, but its battle against rising seas makes its long-term viability questionable.

Next: Easy access to the big city plus $5 billion in incentives.

11. Montgomery County, Md.

Maryland’s governor has proposed $5 billion in tax incentives for Amazon. | Blightylad-infocus/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 1.05 million

Amazon promises a $5 billion investment in the city picked to host the new headquarters. Maryland governor Larry Hogan wants to make it a zero-sum endeavor, as he is proposing $5 billion of tax incentives to lure the company. An under-construction metro line to nearby Washington, D.C., will eventually make Montgomery county an extension of the nation’s capital.

Next: A city with a hot job market that probably hurt its chances.

12. Nashville, Tenn.

Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville’s tax incentives aren’t as generous as some city’s.| SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 660,388

The Nashville area includes some of the best places to live, and it’s one of the best cities to find a job. Those are positives. However, Nashville isn’t as freewheeling with its tax incentives as some of the other cities on our list, and city officials saying the tax breaks it is offering are absurd has to hurt its chances.

Next: One number is all you need to know.

13. Newark, N.J.

Newark’s put together $7 billion in tax incentives for Amazon. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 281,764

Newark has the smallest population of any city on this list, though it is part of the larger New York City metro area. There’s probably one reason why it makes the shortlist for the new Amazon headquarters, and that is a $7 billion tax incentive package. It’s roughly 18 times higher than the largest tax subsidy of $390 million on New Jersey’s books.

Next: This city is dangling 62 million square feet to lure Amazon.

14. New York City

New york
New York is an unlikely contender. | Spyarm/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 8.54 million

High taxes in a high-density city work against New York winning the new HQ, but The Big Apple has two things in its favor. First, Amazon already has a presence in the city with office space in Manhattan and a distribution facility on Staten Island. Second, New York is offering more than 62 million square feet for the company if it moves there.

Next: Not as much as of a longshot as you think.

15. Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia’s bid isn’t as much of a longshot as it might seem.  | Raghu_Ramaswamy/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 1.53 million

Amazon’s list of finalists includes Northern Virginia, but more specifically Fairfax and Loudoun Counties are contenders. They’re on the other side of the Potomac River from Montgomery County, Md., where we visited just a minute ago.

This bid seems like a longshot, but it actually makes a lot of sense when you consider these facts:

  • Dulles International Airport is there, and Amazon needs access to a major airport.
  • Amazon Cloud Services, the company’s secret money-maker, already has an office in the area.
  • Up to 70% of all internet traffic runs through data centers in the area, and that includes Amazon’s traffic.

Next: A highly innovative city with lots of office space.

16. Philadelphia

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Philadelphia is ofering Amazon lots of office space. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 1.57 million

It might come as a surprise to you, but Philadelphia is one of the most innovative cities in the United States, so it has that going for it. The city is offering lots of office space while allowing Amazon to add to what’s already there.

Next: Free sandwiches — and a growing tech industry — in our next city.

17. Pittsburgh

Lawrenceville, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh has plenty of spots where Amazon could build its new headquarters. | Peter Pawlowski/Wikimedia Commons

Estimated population: 303,625

What is Pittsburgh offering that the other cities on this list aren’t? Free sandwiches! Oh, plus it has a growing tech industry, a highly educated workforce, and up to 20 viable locations for the new Amazon headquarters.

Next: An east coast tri-cities area checks in.

18. Raleigh, N.C.

Glenwood South District of Raleigh
There are plenty of college grads in the Raleigh area who would be eager to work at Amazon. | Lance King/Getty Images

Estimated population: 403,892

Raleigh’s name is on the bid, but Amazon admits the entire tri-cities area that includes nearby Durham and Chapel Hill is part of it. The area is already a tech hotspot with access to elite college graduates at Duke, North Carolina State, and the University of North Carolina. Abundant land and low housing costs are pluses, but underdeveloped public transit hurts Raleigh’s chances.

Next: We don’t think Amazon is willing to share.

19. Toronto

Toronto Skyline
Toronto is the only non-U.S. city on the list. | Elijah-Lovkof/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 5.42 million

It’s the only city outside the United States named a finalist for the new Amazon headquarters, and for good reason. As the New York Times notes, Toronto is already a major tech city, and Canada’s fast-track immigration process for skilled workers is another bonus.

However, Google already has a large presence there and is working on building its own high-tech city within Toronto. We could be wrong, but we doubt Amazon is willing to share space with another major tech company.

Next: The city that is all but a lock to win.

20. Washington D.C.

White House
Some people think D.C. will definitely be Amazon’s final choice. | Idesignimages/iStock/Getty Images

Estimated population: 693,972

If you believe what Bloomberg says, Washington is all but a lock to welcome the new Amazon headquarters.

  • It has one of the strongest public transit systems in the country.
  • CEO Jeff Bezos already lives there in a giant, multi-million dollar mansion.
  • In addition to his house, Bezos already has a toehold in the area as the owner of the Washington Post.

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