Raleigh Makes List Of 20 Finalists For Amazon HQ2

Jan 18, 2018

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, file photo, a clerk reaches to a shelf to pick an item for a customer order at the Amazon Prime warehouse, in New York. Amazon announced Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018, that it has narrowed down its potential site for a second headquarters in North America to 20 metropolitan areas, mainly on the East Coast.
Credit Mark Lennihan, File / AP

Raleigh made the first cut to become the city Amazon chooses as its second headquarters.

Amazon announced Thursday morning it whittled its decision down to 20 cities. Raleigh was the only city from North Carolina to make the list. The closest contenders geographically were in northern Virginia, Nashville and Atlanta.

City leaders across North America tried to woo Amazon their way; the tech giant fielded 238 proposals. It's no wonder. Amazon announced it expects to invest $5 billion in the second headquarters – dubbed simply HQ2 – and hire 50,000 employees, a significant boon to any local economy. By Amazon's own estimates, the company says its investments in Seattle, where it is currently headquartered, from 2010 through 2016 resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city’s economy.

"We've got the secret sauce that they're looking for," said Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson. "We are a leader in economic development and Amazon truly understands this. Raleigh's just got so much of what Amazon is looking for."

Wake County Commissioner Matt Calabria pointed to the county's public schools, community colleges and quality of life that would attract a company like Amazon.

In a statement, Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said the city is "excited and honored" to be on the list.

"We are proud of the investments and partnerships we’ve made that enhance our many attributes, such as our world-class university system, well-trained workforce, diverse economy, strong infrastructure, and emerging entrepreneurial spirit," McFarlane said in the statement. "Raleigh’s commitment to the arts, public parks, and other core services has created an exceptional quality of life for all to enjoy."

Amazon.com Inc. said it will make a final selection sometime this year.

The company had stipulated that it was seeking to be near a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people; be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand that headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.

But Amazon also made it very clear that it wanted tax breaks, grants and any other incentives.

Some state and local governments have made public the details of the financial incentives they are dangling. New Jersey's pitch contains $7 billion in tax breaks and Boston's offer includes $75 million for affordable housing for Amazon employees and others.

But many of the state and local governments competing for the headquarters have refused to disclose the tax breaks or other financial incentives they offered. More than 15 states and cities, including Chicago, turned down requests from The Associated Press to detail the promises they've made.

Several say they don't want their competitors to know what they're offering, a stance that open-government advocates criticized.

Amazon plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters and the second home base will be "a full equal" to it, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had said. The extra space will help the rapidly-growing company. It had nearly 542,000 employees at the end of September, a 77 percent jump from the year before. Some of that growth came from Amazon's nearly $14 billion acquisition last year of natural foods grocer Whole Foods and its 89,000 employees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.