Newark Named Finalist For Amazon HQ2

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Amazon Headquarters Seattle Twenty20
Amazon Headquarters, downtown Seattle. Photo via Twenty20.

Last fall, Amazon announced it would accept responses to a Request For Proposal (RFP) for its second North American headquarters, dubbed “HQ2.” By the Oct. 19 deadline, Camden and Newark had submitted proposals along with hundreds of other cities. In total, 238 bids were weighed against Amazon’s fairly practical if at times intangible criteria and a shortlist of 20 locations was just named. Newark made the cut.

In the RFP, Amazon distills its corporate culture into four principles: “customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking.” Amazon’s second home will have to embody the company’s ethos and fulfill a laundry list of site qualifications, but ultimately, HQ2 represents a $5 billion project, 50,000 jobs, and the guarantee of a symbiotic relationship — Seattle has exploded around Amazon’s 33-building, 8.1 million-sq. ft. headquarters. In 2017, Amazon was awarded the “City Maker” award by the Downtown Seattle Association.

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Amazon outlined specific criteria, including proximity to: a population center of one million plus, an international airport, major highways and arterial roads, and access on-site to mass transit. Check, check, check, check, and check for Newark.

All of these requisites are aimed at a geographic advantage that would attract and retain top talent, but Amazon is an ‘if you build it, they will come’ behemoth. HQ2 will be a city unto itself no matter where it sets up shop. Beyond the practical requests, Amazon’s desire for community and a high quality of life for its employees is harder to quantify and a pitch any one of the finalists could make.

Brick City Mayor Ras Baraka says that making the shortlist “speaks to the essential strengths of the people of Newark — our resilience, our diversity, our talent, our productivity and their amazing work to transform our city and its narrative over the past 50 years.”

Logistically, it makes a lot of sense. Newark provides proximity to the Port of New Jersey and New York, and the Garden State provides a gateway to the Northeast while maintaining easier access to the South and Midwest. There is a high concentration of Amazon fulfillment centers located in New Jersey and the proposed site is near Newark Liberty International Airport.

Connectivity was also cited as a must-have and Newark is indisputably one of the country’s top tech cities with an infrastructure to match. Amazon is also looking for “a stable and business-friendly environment” and “communities that think big and creatively.” Currently, Newark has $2 billion committed to commercial and residential investment.

Fundamentally, apart from the inherent mysteries of the RFP process, we can venture a guess that Amazon’s biggest decision driver will be financial incentives. Newark has been home to Amazon’s audiobooks seller Audible for a decade and the state sweetened the pot, offering Amazon $5 billion in tax breaks over ten years.

The initial request is for 500,000+ sq. ft. with the space to grow over ten years to 8,000,000 sq. ft. The remaining 19 in the running are Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Montgomery County in Maryland, Nashville, New York, Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Toronto, and Washington.

Amazon will make its site selection this year.

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