Toronto Makes Amazon’s 20-City Shortlist in HQ2 Search

Toronto has survived the first wave.

Amazon has selected 20 cities to move to the next phase of their search for a second headquarters, dubbed the HQ2, and Toronto has made the cut as the only Canadian city on the list.

The search for Amazon’s second headquarters is an unprecedented undertaking. The “winning” city will have an entire Amazon campus built within its confines, costing up to $5 billion and creating 50,000 high-paying jobs. If the new HQ2 is anything like the current headquarters in Seattle, it will sport more than 30 buildings and eight million square feet, almost resembling a large university campus.

Toronto submitted a 190-page bid for HQ2 and was immediately touted as Canada’s frontrunner in the competition by pundits. The city’s designation as the country’s tech hub as well as the reduced dollar, free healthcare and tons of other perks (it’s a 190 page big after all) tried to convince Amazon executives that Ontario’s capital is the place to grow the e-commerce behemoth.

“This is the place for any company looking to tap into the potential of a truly global marketplace and a stable, innovative, forward-looking economy,” wrote Toronto Mayor John Tory in the bid.

In total, 238 cities across North America submitted bids, including some of the biggest Canadian cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa-Gatineau, Edmonton and Halifax.

A few may be surprised to see Toronto on the list. Ed Clark, the business advisor to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, discussed how politics could play a role in the ultimate decision. If Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is comfortable with telling U.S. President Donald Trump that 50,000 jobs are moving to Canada, then Toronto may have a really good shot. If not, then well than Toronto does not have a chance.

A picture from Toronto's bid showing both the current and proposed real estate options for an HQ2.
A picture from Toronto’s bid showing both the current and proposed real estate options for an HQ2.

The other cities on the shortlist for the new HQ2 include a few heavyweights like New York City, Chicago, Boston and L.A., but there are also a few unexpected inclusions, such as Newark in New Jersey, Montgomery County in Maryland, and Raleigh in North Carolina.

“Thank you to all 238 communities that submitted proposals. Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough—all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said Holly Sullivan, Amazon Public Policy. “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”

Each proposal sent to Amazon was ranked based on criteria outlined in an RFP and how well the city met those standards. There was a clear indication as to what Amazon expected from applicants, but it’s become apparent that cities did not have to meet every single requirement form the RFP. For example, one piece of criteria said cities must have more than one million residents; Raleigh has less than 500,000.

Still, this is a big step forward for Toronto’s possible inclusion, as they did not place very high in a number of expert’s lists and studies regarding potential spots for the new HQ2. But, as some other experts have speculated, an HQ2 might not be all it’s cracked up to be.