The Pick is In: Amazon to Select Northern Virginia, Long Island City for HQ2 Locations
After a little more than a year hunting for a second home, Amazon has reportedly made its final decision on where to settle down. And, much like analysts have come to expect over the past week or so, the company’s indecisiveness has resulted in a bit of a surprise decision: Amazon will turn its HQ2 into more of an HQ2. According to a report late Monday night by the Wall Street Journal, the Seattle-based company will evenly divide its second headquarters between Crystal City in Arlington County, Virginia, and Long Island CIty in New York City.
“We are excited to build new headquarters in New York City and Northern Virginia,” Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, said in a statement announcing the new headquarters. “These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”
In addition, Amazon announced that it will open a Center of Excellence for its Operations business in Nashville, which will create more than 5,000 jobs. That center, the company explained, will be located in downtown Nashville and will be responsible for Amazon's customer fulfillment, transportation, supply chair, and other similar activities. The hiring at all three new locations will begin in early 2019.
In dividing the planned HQ2 evenly between the two locations, Amazon confirmed that what the “winners” will receive is exactly half of what the company promised at the outset of this manufactured competition. That is, an Amazon campus that houses 25,000 employees and investments of $2.5 billion for construction—not to mention the residual benefits from local infrastructure investments as well.
According to sources familiar with the matter who spoke with the WSJ, local government officials in both cities were expecting to hold events for the announcement on Tuesday. New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio discussed the Amazon deal during a weekly television appearance Monday night, and though he didn’t expressly confirm the report, he did say that Amazon selecting the city would be “the single biggest economic development deal in the history of New York City.”
For the Washington-metro area town of Crystal City, the win signifies a drastic uptick in its recent string of bad luck. The area, once a booming business area just a Metro stop or two outside of downtown D.C., has seen thousands of jobs vanish as military agencies and defense contractors as part of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) process that began in 2005.
“We are proud that Amazon has selected National Landing for a major new headquarters. This is, above all, a validation of our community’s commitment to sustainability, transit-oriented development, affordable housing, and diversity,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in Amazon's statement. “The strength of our workforce coupled with our proximity to the nation’s capital makes us an attractive business location. But Arlington’s real strength is the decades of planning that have produced one of the most vibrant, civically engaged communities in the world. Those plans have paved the way for this investment, and we look forward to engaging the Arlington community about Amazon’s plans and how we can grow together.”
From the outset, the Washington region was considered among the favorites to land HQ2 for a number of reasons, not to mention the fact that three separate bids were submitted by Northern Virginia, Maryland, and DC. It’s proximity to the political center of America was chief among the tells, but so too was a friendly real estate deals, it's relatively developed (albeit very unreliable) transportation system, and Bezos’ own personal connections to the region—including his recent purchase of a home in the area and of the Washington Post back in 2013. In the end, Washington—or somewhere very close by—was always going to serve Amazon well politically. But what likely held the region back from being the sole owner of HQ2 is the lack of technical talent as compared to a thriving tech hub like New York City.
“This is a giant step on our path to building an economy in New York City that leaves no one behind. We are thrilled that Amazon has selected New York City for its new headquarters,” Mayor de Blasio said in the statement. “New Yorkers will get tens of thousands of new, good-paying jobs, and Amazon will get the best talent anywhere in the world."
The process, not unlike anything Amazon does, has resulted in endless scrutiny throughout. There was the initial decision to even make this a public process, giving hundreds of cities false hope and resulting in expensive proposals that were supported by taxpayers’ money. Then, once the short-list was released, there was speculative real-estate purchases around certain cities that will ultimately leave those investors hanging. There’s been controversy over what kinds of incentives Amazon could ultimately receive in its new hometown(s). And then, of course, the decision to split HQ2 in two—a move that caused a lot of eye rolling and made some wonder if the company went into this process with its mind already made up.
Whatever the reasoning or reaction, the pieces are in place, and Amazon can now get ready for its big move east. For the losing locales, at the very least, they have a decent pitch in place the next time a company looks their way for a potential home for its headquarters.
This article has been updated from an earlier version to include statements and additional information from Amazon's official press release announcing the selection of Northern Virginia and Long Island for its split HQ2.