Major Canadian cities set sights on Amazon's second $5B headquarters

Amazon Biosphere at corporate headquarters in Seattle, WA. (Flickr/brewbooks)

Could the 6ix become HQ2?

E-commerce giant Amazon announced plans on Thursday to scout locations for its second North American headquarters, and Toronto Mayor John Tory says game on.

According to a statement from the Jeff Bezos-owned retail empire, which now includes organic grocery chain Whole Foods, the company expects to invest over US$5 billion in construction and provide the host city with 50,000 high-paying jobs. Ontario’s capital city will compete for the lucrative bid, satisfying the criteria of being a metropolitan area with a population greater than one million, a “stable and business-friendly environment,” and an attractive location that could retain workers.

“I firmly believe that Toronto is a prime candidate to host Amazon’s second headquarters in North America,” says Tory’s statement. “We are a bold, innovative city that has plenty of homegrown tech talent. We also continue to attract talent and companies from around the world. City staff are working with Toronto Global to make sure we put together an attractive bid for this opportunity.”

In its request for proposals, Amazon stated that the HQ2 would be a “full equal” to its current hub in Seattle, which currently houses over 40,000 employees and covers 8.1 million square feet. The Seattle company also reported paying US$43 million into the Seattle’s public transportation system as part of their employees’ transportation benefit, and counted 233 nights in area hotels by visiting Amazonians and guests in 2016.

According to the RFP, employees hired to work in HQ2 will make an average salary of US$100,000. The criteria for consideration include existing buildings of at least 500,000 square feet initially that are expandable to 8 million by 2027 (or have additional options for development nearby) and a greenfield site of approximately 100 acres with utility infrastructure. The ideal site will also be within 45 minutes of an international airport and direct access to public transit. The deadline for proposals is Oct. 19, and the mayor confirms Toronto won’t be late.

“I will be leading the charge to make the case that Amazon should call Toronto home,” Tory states.

UPDATE: The City of Montreal has also declared its intention to respond to the RFP. Press officer Noémie Brière-Marquez told Yahoo Finance Canada via email that they will work closely with local and international partners to promote Montreal to Amazon. Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre also weighed in:

Which roughly translates to, “It is our intention to convince @amazon (@amazonnews) that @MTL_Ville is the metropolis it dreamed of for its 2nd head office in North America.”

UPDATE: Ian McKay, CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission, has also confirmed to Yahoo Canada Finance that the city is “reviewing the Amazon HQ2 RFP with the intention of putting forth a proposal.” McKay’s statement also highlights the attributes he believes make the British Columbian coastal city the best choice for this venture, noting that its “dense and connected downtown tech cluster, competitive cost of doing business, leadership in green business & sustainable planning, and Canada’s strongest startup ecosystem, to name a few – will position [Vancouver] as a frontrunner among other cities.”

UPDATE: Calgary declares it will be making a “strong pitch” to win the bid. Mary Moran, President and Chief Executive Officer for Calgary Economic Development, said in a statement, “The value proposition that we offer aligns with what Amazon is looking for. This is an innovative city with a highly educated and globally connected workforce, we have affordable available real estate, low-cost of doing business, exceptional transportation links and quality of life for their employees.”

UPDATE: Ottawa is in. Mayor Jim Watson says the city will “work hard over the next few months to put [its] best foot forward in this process. As an innovation and research-intensive city, counting a bilingual and culturally diverse high-tech and telecommunications workforce of more than 77,000 leading professionals, Ottawa is well-positioned to host this Amazon campus.”

Yahoo Canada Finance has reached out to the city planning department in Edmonton and will update this story accordingly.