Willy Wonka would be pleased: One year ago today, Jeff Bezos announced Amazon’s search for a second headquarters, triggering a flood of publicity and a frenzy of interest from cities hoping to nab a golden ticket. The 238 HQ2 applicants were narrowed down to 20 finalists back in January.
Amazon (AMZN) promises to invest more than $5 billion in the city it chooses for its second headquarters and create 50,000 well-paying jobs over the next decade. Its effect on its current hometown of Seattle has been staggering: The company employs more than 40,000 people there and claims each dollar it has invested in Seattle generated an additional $1.40 for the city’s economy.
The e-commerce giant has said it will make its final HQ2 decision by the end of this year.
So where does the search stand today? As Amazon hovers around a $1 trillion market cap, the list of candidate cities remains at 20 across the U.S. plus Toronto, Canada.
Geekwire tried to divine the HQ2 location by analyzing Amazon’s recent job postings. The Washington, D.C., metro area had the most open positions this summer, and three finalist cities are in that region: the District of Columbia itself, Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Md. Online betting shops also say Northern Virginia is the most likely to win it.
A CNBC analysis found that Texas was the most attractive location, with Dallas and Austin among the top 20 finalists. An earlier analysis by ATTOM Data Solutions ranked Raleigh, N.C., and Atlanta at the top of the list. Atlanta was an early favorite, and Wells Fargo Securities predicted Boston would be the frontrunner,
CNN reports details about the economic climates of these cities as included in their proposals are attracting other investors as well.
Cities often woo corporations that are considering building in their region, but it’s rare to see a company openly audition cities this way. The candidate cities have been falling over themselves to offer the most attractive tax incentive packages, but it’s difficult to tell what will make Bezos pick a city — and there’s no telling how tax cuts might affect the chosen city’s bottom line.
While courting Amazon for its second headquarters seems like an obvious win, experts warn of downsides, such as increased traffic and inflated housing prices. “It feels like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told NBC News. “It’s a real prize, but they’re going to need to be very disciplined. It’s a big deal, a big project with lots of moving parts.”