Toronto Moving Up Ranks for Amazon’s Second HQ2

Just as some of the HQ2 hype was dying down, it’s coming right back up.

Toronto is the second-most-likely city to land Amazon’s second headquarters according to a new report. The real estate and tourism agency Resonance compiled a top five list that placed Canada’s largest city squarely at number two on the list, trailing only New York City.

At this point, it’s really still anyone’s guess as to where the $5-billion, 50,000 job hub will land. Amazon launched their game show-esque search for a second headquarters back in September 2017 and since then hundreds of think pieces and reports have been published trying to guess where it will land and why it may or may not be a good idea.

The only update Amazon has provided since that initial search was a narrowed-down list of 20 potential locations for the HQ2. Toronto was the only Canadian city on that short list, and it was joined by New York City and Resonance’s other top five likely candidates, Chicago, Northern Virginia and L.A. In total, 238 cities submitted a bid to Amazon for an HQ2.

The most fun part of this whole process has been breaking down the bids from each city. Some candidates pledged to rename their entire city, while others offered oddball ideas to bring in the e-commerce giant. Toronto’s 190-plus-page bid did not include too many gimmicks and instead focused on 10 unique sites as a location for the HQ2, along with bits on culture, transportation and business climate.

One major part of the Canadian bids many critics had concerns with was transparency: too much of it when it came to how tech talent in the country is underpaid compared to U.S. peers, and then not enough when it came to potential tax breaks for the fairly-successful Amazon. Officials have said Toronto will not offer direct tax incentives, but they could come in other forms.

In fact, that lack of tax incentives is what Resonance thinks sets Toronto back in the overall list. New York City’s major concern is a real lack of downtown space for a new Amazon campus—the current headquarters in Seattle is 8.1 million square feet, and that would cost approximately $22 quadrillion for that equivalent space in Manhattan (estimated).

Resonance also points to the recent announcement that Amazon will add 3,000 new jobs in Vancouver as a reason to lower the odds for a Canadian HQ2, even though Toronto is about as far from Vancouver as New York City is.

Reports like this one from Resonance are hard to judge because they use the same data and analysis available to everyone else. It’s fun to guess what may happen, but no one will know until Amazon unleashes a $5 billion beast on one of their 20 shortlisted cities later this year.