Few Cities Could Accommodate Amazon’s New Headquarters

HQ1, in Seattle. Where will HQ2 be built?

Photographer: David Ryder/Bloomberg

Which cities will lead the economy of tomorrow? And who will decide? Often it's an amorphous mass of companies and people over time, drifting to where land is cheap and weather is warm. Sometimes it's one company, choosing in one moment. Like now, when Amazon decides where to locate its second corporate headquarters.

The scale of Inc.'s undertaking — over time, needing up to 8 million square feet of office space and 50,000 well-paid employees — is unlike anything seen in recent memory. The only thing comparable would be cities bidding for the Summer Olympics. Amazon's Request for Proposal narrows the list significantly in terms of the number of cities realistically able to bid for such a project.

First, the labor force needs for the headquarters dramatically shrink the number of metro areas able to bid. Amazon says it's considering metro areas of a million or more, but realistically to provide 50,000 employees a metro area is going to need to be significantly larger than that.