Chicago, Cook County and IL government are willing to shell out a combined incentive package worth around $2 billion in order to lure Amazon, according to two sources close to the bid process who spoke with Chicago Tonight last fall. "Amazon clearly recognizes the many strengths of our region". The list is light on west coast towns, highlighting the company's interest in developing a new center far from their original Seattle digs.
Just as surprising was Amazon's rejection of applications from Detroit, Phoenix and San Diego.
Last year, Amazon received bids from 238 cities and regions from across 54 states, provinces, districts and territories across North America. "Let's close the deal and bring it home!" tweeted former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe.
"Canadian cities are progressive, confident, and natural homes for forward-thinking global leaders", Trudeau wrote in his letter. But numerous state and local governments competing for the headquarters have refused to disclose the tax breaks or other financial incentives they offered.
Twenty finalists were announced Thursday.
Little Rock made a decision to have fun with the competition. Moody's listed Atlanta second behind Austin, Texas. A tongue-in-cheek breakup letter to Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos- "Hey, Amazon, we need to talk" - ran as a full-page ad in The Washington Post, which is owned by Bezos.
Amazon, which now employs about 13,000 people throughout the state, will make a decision on the location of HQ2 sometime this year. Of the 20 cities that made the shortlist Amazon released Thursday, none are in the Upper Midwest.
"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".
He also said Seattle moved too slowly to incorporate the new people.
Construction flagger Robin Kocher is pulling for Atlanta to be chosen by Amazon for its second headquarters because it's in the South and the South needs any help it can get. "It would bring a lot of jobs to town, I'm a little bit anxious about the new condos and employees moving to town and making the traffic a little bit worse, but otherwise I think it would be great", said Kristen Meade. "The traffic problems will be worse".
The Seattle-based online retailing giant plans to invest over $5 billion and accommodate as many as 50,000 high paying jobs.
Mayors and local governments sought to outdo one another by dangling lavish incentives before Amazon and going to great lengths to understand its requirements.
The response prompted a wave of publicity stunts by cities that surprised even Amazon.
Chris Sanchirico, the Samuel A. Blank professor of law, business, and public policy at Penn, wrote a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer arguing that Amazon would not be as beneficial to the city as expected. 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. And the president of Amazon led the lobbying effort to be sure they kept no income tax.
The process also has attracted critics. While it's unclear if they'll solicit requests the same way Amazon has - or if they already have a location in mind - there's no doubt that the HQ2 bidding war will likely inspire other companies to follow suit in the future, said Gene Munster, managing partner at Loup Ventures.