I live within walking distance of the South Lake Union neighborhood in Seattle, which is the location of Amazon Headquarters #1 and many thousands of Amazon employees. There are lots of benefits to being near the Amazon Mothership. An older and somewhat blighted area with mostly warehouses and aging structures has been transformed into a steel and glass mecca. The area is now filled with trendy bars and restaurants, hair salons, galleries, dry cleaners, bike shops — all those ancillary services both humble and sophisticated that make a neighborhood fun and attractive for young employees milling around during the lunch hour and after work with plenty of money in their pockets. As an Amazon Prime Customer right around the corner from South Lake Union, we get some things delivered same day, and even within a two hour window. Amazon employees buy expensive condos or rent apartments and contribute both to the tax base and the general economic viability of the city. Amazon attracts other employers looking for talent, which they they hope they might be able to lure away from Amazon’s supercharged culture.
But the bidding war for Amazon HQ2 is not all about perceived benefits — it’s about costs and trade-offs. Those trade-offs are more complicated and more expensive than may initially be evident.
My former hometown of Rochester would love to be in the mix of finalists in the bidding war, although I suspect the chances are remote. Some pundits think Amazon already knows exactly where it wants to go, and is using this bidding war to extract maximum economic concessions.
Living near Amazon HQ1 is, for me, a great thing. Having your city land Amazon HQ2 could be a great thing too, but it all depends on what you have to give in order to get it.