These 10 cities could be Boston’s biggest rivals for Amazon’s affections

Rendering of Suffolk Downs site from City of Boston Amazon HQ bid ( Credit: City of Boston )
Rendering of Boston's proposed Amazon headquarters at Suffolk Downs. –City of Boston

In the nationwide publicity competition to win Amazon’s second headquarters, Boston has a lot of competition.

From metropolises like New York City to cities and towns virtually in Boston’s own backyard, local governments across the country have submitted bids for the retail giant’s second headquarters, which promises to have a transformative impact on the eventual winner.

By some accounts, Boston is one of the top contenders to land Amazon’s “HQ2.” But it is hardly alone among the top tier of candidates. Here’s a look at the city’s national rivals in the effort to lure Amazon, and the reasons they may or may not have an upper hand.

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Atlanta

Why it could win:

  • The city is home to a “burgeoning” tech workforce, according to Moody’s.
  • The city also gets a boost for having a good transportation connector with the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
  • Affordable housing would also be a draw, according to Forbes.

Why it might not:

  • Transportation is a problem. According to Moody’s, “traffic congestion remains a headache” and “mass transit is inadequate.”
  • The sprawl of the metropolitan area may prove to be a disqualifier, according to the Brookings Institute.

Austin, Texas

Why it could win:

  • It’s already known as a hub for IT, home to the second largest Apple facility and a large campus for IBM, with a well-educated workforce.
  • It has a lower cost of living than Silicon Valley and other areas in the Northeast, according to Moody’s.
  • Whole Foods, recently acquired by Amazon, is headquartered in Austin.

Why it might not:

Chicago

Why it could win:

  • Chicago is offering financial incentives, according to The Chicago Tribune
  • It has low utility rates.
  • The city has two major airports and an extensive public transit system.

Why it might not:

  • Chicago is closer to Seattle than many of the top contenders, which could be a drawback.

Dallas

Why it could win:

  • The city was beat out only by San Francisco when it comes to attracting tech talent, according to CNN.
  • The state is “notoriously business friendly,” according to CNN.
  • It has a low cost of living compared to other tech-centric cities.

Why it might not:

  • Its weak mass transit and problems with congestion could eliminate it as an option.
  • Amazon could struggle to fill jobs because many companies have moved to Texas recently, with Austin already established as the state’s tech hub, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Denver

Why it could win:

  • Google and IBM are a few of the tech companies that already have offices in the city, according to The New York Times.
  • The city has already been attracting college graduates at a faster rate than larger cities with the draw of its affordability and lifestyle, according to Times.
  • It has a low cost of living and great quality of life with its proximity to Colorado’s natural beauty.

Why it might not:

  • Housing costs are on the rise in Denver, according to KUNC.
  • The state has one of the lowest per-pupil spending rates in the county and is facing a budget-shortfall for maintenance of its roads and bridges, according to KUNC.

Miami

Why it could win:

  • The city is home to the second busiest airport in the country, according to Moody’s.
  • Jeff Bezos graduated from a high school in the Miami area.

Why it might not:

  • State and local officials are not likely to offer a competitive incentive package, according to Moody’s.
  • The city would struggle to fulfill Amazon’s request for space.
  • It may be too far from Seattle.

New York City

Why it could win:

  • NYC is a popular destination for young, educated workers, with a significant tech presence. 
  • The city has two airports and an extensive mass transit system.
  • As New Yorkers would say, the city speaks for itself.

Why it might not:

  • Land and housing are extremely expensive in New York.
  • New York doesn’t plan to offer a ton of subsidies and tax breaks; Amazon would be a “big fish in a big pond,” according to Mayor Bill DeBlasio. 
  • The mayor also made some awkward comments about Amazon being ‘destructive’ a day after submitting the bid, Business Insider reported.

Philadelphia

Why it could win:

  • “A boom is under way but is not so far along that the city is now expensive,” Moody’s says.
  • The city has multiple sites that could serve as possible locations for the headquarters.

Why it might not:

  • The city has an “inefficient” tax structure and problems with is public sector pensions.

Pittsburgh

Why it could win:

  • Amazon has already expanded its footprint in the city, according to Moody’s.
  • The city has a growing tech workforce, supported by the presence of universities like Carnegie Mellon.

Why it might not:

  • Amazon may struggle to fill the 50,000 jobs in the city.
  • Both the city and the state have fiscal problems.

Washington, D.C.

Why it could win:

  • The city already has a tie to Bezos through his ownership of The Washington Post, according to Fox Business. He also recently bought a house in the area.
  • The nation’s capital gets points for its easy access to multiple transportation hubs both by air and by rail.
  • The city has a diverse metro area and broad talent base, according to USA Today.

Why it might not:

  • Traffic is already a nightmare, and maintenance failures on public transit have caused a decline in ridership, according to USA Today.
  • The city has high labor costs.