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Amazon’s new headquarters: Which US city is most primed for Amazon HQ2?

238 contenders throw their hats in the ring to bring home 50,000 high-paying jobs.

Atlanta, Boston, New York or Austin — or will Amazon bet on a dark horse?

Bidding at a close, rumors are flying as to the one lucky city destined to host the second headquarters of online retail titan Amazon.

According to its own site, Amazon received an eye-popping 238 proposals from across the US, Canada and Mexico. Big town to ’burb, they’re all looking for a piece of the estimated $40 billion pie and 50,000 jobs to come out of the $5 billion Amazon’s baked into the investment.

Amazon HQ2 proposal breakdown

Like candidates who apply for coveted jobs by affixing resumes to watermelons, competitors resorted to curious tactics to stand out from the crowd. Take the Atlanta suburb Stonecrest, whose mayor promised some 350 acres to create the namesake city of Amazon, Georgia, where Jeff Bezos would rule as mayor for life. Even cucumber-cool New York City lit up its landmarks in orange after pitching four spots for the retailer’s new home base.

With so much hubbub, it’s no surprise that long-shot gamblers are taking notice. Irish bookmaker Paddy Power is accepting wagers on where Amazon will build its empire next. At the top of the list? The metropolitan Atlanta (sorry, Stonecrest), followed by Austin and Boston.

Ranking the cities

Our methodology was simple: Editors analyzed data from the US Department of Transportation, US Department of Education and Bureau of Labor Statistics to rank each city on a low-to-high scale of 1 to 10 based on:

  • Airport capacity. Amazon’s going to be moving a lot of freight, and so it’ll need access to a large airport.
  • Job growth. Strong employment can illustrate a city’s successful economic health overall.
  • Available skilled workforce. Amazon will fill about 50,000 open positions in its new city.
  • Mass transit. Can those 50,000 people get to work, or will they overwhelm existing traffic congestion?
  • Higher education. Can the city produce a talent pool to fill Amazon’s most competitive roles?
  • Tax friendliness. How a city structures its taxes can either welcome or deter a business.

Our top 10 for Amazon HQ2

We’re not immune to good competition. And so we’ve further combined overall results from our scorecard below with Vegas odds and hometown chutzpah to narrow down the cities that are most likely to see the success of their hustle for Amazon’s headquarters.

Without further fuss, finder.com’s Top 10:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Austin
  3. Boston
  4. New York City
  5. Portland
  6. Philly
  7. Washington, DC
  8. Toronto
  9. San Jose
  10. Miami

Wild card: Memphis

Ranking each city

CityAirport capacityJob growthAvailable skilled workforceMass transitHigher educationTax friendliness
Atlanta55925
Austin17
Baltimore45
Boston1878
Calgary43
Charlotte62
Chicago92793
Cincinnati71
Columbus4
Dallas87610
Denver773
Detroit1
Edmonton1
Grand Rapids5
Hartford3
Houston48
Jacksonville59
Las Vegas6510
Los Angeles9493
Memphis2
Miami578
Minneapolis1564
Montreal8
Nashville52
New York8510102
Orlando3109
Philadelphia157
Phoenix438
Pittsburgh463
Portland3115
Raleigh108
Richmond3
Salt Lake City1
Riverside6
San Antonio18
San Diego117
San Francisco7661
San Jose9
Seattle3168
Tampa87
Toronto559
Vancouver25
Washington21084

Assessing each city

Atlanta

Atlanta is favored to win because of its rapid growth, airport capacity and growing educated workforce. More than 70 potential locations are proposed for Amazon HQ2 in Hotlanta.
Vegas odds: 3/1

Austin

Austin has made a name for itself as a burgeoning tech hub, with a thriving business community, low cost of living and growing educated workforce. Apple and Samsung have already set up shop in the “tech pipeline.” Is Amazon next?
Vegas odds: 7/1

Baltimore

Picture it: Amazon HQ2 on a picturesque waterfront with easy airport and train access. Plus, it could be a huge opportunity for economic expansion. And Charm City is tax-friendly and boasts affordable living, supported by a solid university system that’s growing tech talent.

Boston

Boston offers the intellectual, economic and physical infrastructure that would be a fine second home for Amazon. Local business leaders, universities and elected officials have shown support for Amazon to make its mark in the historic city.
Vegas odds: 7/1

Calgary

Calgary is an innovative city with plenty of space for Amazon to expand. Did someone say free universal health care? It’s a long shot, but Calgary released a video saying it’d “fight a bear” for the tech giant.
Vegas odds: 66/1

Charlotte

Charlotte — proposing more than 20 possible locations for HQ2 — has a busy airport and interstate roads that lead to the heart of the city. North Carolina has lured big companies with incentive packages and tax rebates to grow the workforce and economy. Will Amazon bite?

Chicago

Chicago is putting $2 billion in tax breaks on the table to get Amazon HQ2. The city offers a handful of locations ready for development. Add to that an intelligent pool of young talent and a busy international airport.
Vegas odds: 16/1

Cincinnati

To get Amazon HQ2, Cincinnati’s mayor promised the city would be “very aggressive on tax incentives.” And affordable Cincinnati has one of the top-growing workforces in the nation.

Columbus

Columbus has a young, educated workforce that has fueled an economic comeback in the past few years. The city offered Amazon 100% property tax abatement for 15 years — big savings for the retail giant.

Dallas

Top tech talent has surely contributed to Dallas becoming one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities. Dallas’s international airport has routes spidering across the globe. Plus the economy is booming.
Vegas odds: 20/1

Denver

Skilled workers, job growth, public transportation and international airport access make Denver a palatable home for HQ2. The city has no problem fulfilling Amazon’s request of a “high quality of life” for Amazon’s employees.
Vegas odds: 20/1

Detroit

Detroit has drastically rebranded itself in the last few years, and Amazon HQ2 could be the extra push toward economic revitalization.
In this city’s corner is a bustling international airport and the University of Michigan — a top overall research university.

Edmonton

Edmonton is a rapidly growing city with mass transit and notable universities. It may be a shot in the dark, but the affordable real estate and innovative tech workforce could be a major draw.

Grand Rapids

New businesses have boosted economic development in the past few years, making Grand Rapids an inviting location. But while the city shines in job growth, a lack of mass transit could drown out its bid for HQ2.

Hartford

Hartford is culturally rich and home to a finely shaped workforce. Amazon could be tempted by multiple transportation options and an affordable cost of living.

Houston

Already an innovative city, Houston is home to several worldwide industries. Is that enough to persuade Amazon to plant roots? Being among the most diverse cities in America only helps Houston’s case.

Jacksonville

Jacksonville is lenient with taxes and has experienced a spike in job growth in recent years. It’s also friendly for businesses, and employees might be happy to know it’s free of an income tax.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas supports a range of industries within access to an international airport. Sin City hopes its low taxes bring it a bit of luck for HQ2.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles includes an impressive university system and a major international airport. But does Amazon need two West Coast headquarters? Not to mention the city’s problematic mass transit, which LA plans to expand in the future.
Vegas odds: 33/1

Memphis

A long shot, Memphis is offering $50 million to entice HQ2. The city is willing to throw $10 million toward expanding its airport and public transportation to accommodate Amazon.

Miami

Miami has a shot for HQ2, but it must drastically improve its public transportation for serious consideration. But this sunny city does have access to an international airport and many universities.
Vegas odds: 20/1

Minneapolis

Minnesota supports an educated workforce and a community that enjoys a high quality of life — plus, Midwesterners are friendly as all get out. The city has proposed four sites that could easily accommodate HQ2.

Montreal

Montreal has a steadily growing workforce and mass transportation to scoot workers around the city. Its distinct academic community could be an ideal place to grow Amazon.

Nashville

Nashville is a progressive city with low taxes that offers a lot in the way of culture. But if Nashville wants HQ2, it needs to think long and hard about public transportation and how it’ll fill 50,000 potential jobs.

New York

Already home to Google’s headquarters, New York City is a heavyweight contender that’d have no problem rousing 50,000 qualified applicants. The Big Apple is a proven international hub with multiple ways to commute and access to three major airports.
Vegas odds: 14/1

Orlando

Orlando offers a business-friendly climate and amplified tech talent. But with Disney World employing more than 60,000 people, it could be difficult to fill another 50,000 jobs.

Philadelphia

Living in Philadelphia is easy on the pocket, and it’s home to many prime universities. The City of Brotherly Love stands out when it comes to tech students about to enter the workforce.
Vegas odds: 16/1

Phoenix

Phoenix has an airport, viable public transportation and an abundance of land to develop. The city recently received high marks for employing some of the best software developers and engineers.

Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is a dark horse, for sure. But it’s an innovative city with more than 30 nearby universities, including top engineering schools. Quality of life is high, housing prices low — and you’ll find french fries in its sammies.

Portland

Portland’s quality of life is highly sought after, not to mention its swelling specialized workforce. But filling 50,000 jobs at one company could be a feat. And the City of Roses might be a bit too close to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters.
Vegas odds: 14/1

Raleigh

Raleigh pairs rich culture with an economical housing market. It’s surrounded by top research universities and could produce the talent the tech giant searches for. But is it the right fit for Amazon?

Richmond

Richmond can offer Amazon tech-literate employees from a handful of notable universities. To get works around, it’s near three international airports and offers a reasonable mass transit system.

Riverside

Riverside offered $12.8 million in incentives to the retail giant to land HQ2. This innovative city offers both a low cost of living and a high quality of life.

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City has a steadily growing workforce and can offer employees affordable living. Forbes has ranked Utah time and again as one of the best states to do business in.
Vegas odds: 33/1

San Antonio

San Antonio dropped out because it didn’t believe it could compete with incentives offered up in the bidding frenzy. The city finds it hard to believe that “forward thinking” Amazon hasn’t yet narrowed it down to a few locations.

San Diego

San Diego shines with a competitive cost of doing business and abundant public transportation options. But although the tech talent is there, San Diego’s workers may not be available to fulfill HQ2.

San Francisco

San Francisco is a known tech hub that’s conveniently tucked next to an international airport. But while the city offers public transportation, it comes with a staggering cost of living.

San Jose

San Jose is a creative hub that’s rich in culture with a top-tier workforce. The city made a bid, even though Mayor Sam Liccardo said this incentive-based bidding war could be bad for taxpayers.
Vegas odds: 18/1

Seattle

We’ve already seen HQ1 work here. But HQ2? That may be too much. Share the wealth, Seattle. You’re being greedy!

Tampa

A low cost of living? Check. International airport? You know it. Business-friendly climate? Yup. But it trails other cities when it comes to retaining a pool of tech talent.

Toronto

A top contender, Toronto is a successful city that grows and retains tech talent. The city also broke the mold when it came time to bid for HQ2, offering no tax exemptions or subsidies.
Vegas odds: 12/1

Vancouver

Vancouver has the airport, mass transit and business-friendly economy that could be right for Amazon. However, its cost of living is inflated compared with other cities in the running.
Vegas odds: 66/1

Washington

Washington, DC, offers an educated labor force and can likely produce more top talent out of its highly regarded universities. The airport and public transportation that Amazon wants it there, but it’s also heavily populated — and HQ2 could bring on yet more congestion.
Vegas odds: 14/1

Jennifer McDermott

Jennifer is finder.com’s Communications Manager & Consumer Advocate, keeping her finger on the pulse of finance-related issues and trends that impact the everyday American. She is passionate about breaking down complex themes and providing actionable advice that empowers people to make better decisions about their money.

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