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Amazon HQ2: Site-Selection Pros Predict Northern Virginia, DC, Atlanta

Survey Finds Other Companies May Follow Amazon’s Lead and Make Cities Vie for Their Facilities
September 10, 2018
A new survey says Amazon will locate its second headquarters in Northern Virginia. Pictured is Amazon's Seattle campus.

Most experts who advise companies on real estate strategies say online retailer Amazon will choose Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., or Atlanta for the location of its second headquarters from among 20 finalist cities vying for the estimated $5 billion project.

A survey by New York City-based Development Counsellors International, an economic development and marketing organization, found that 60 percent of respondents predicted Northern Virginia would be Amazon's top choice, though it added that "current wisdom is that the online retail giant will make a further cut to four to six finalists cities" before choosing a winner. Washington, D.C., was No. 2, with 53 percent, followed by Atlanta at No. 3, with 51 percent.

The rest of the candidates received less than 50 percent of the responses. Boston and Toronto tied for No. 4, Dallas was No. 5, and Montgomery County, Maryland, Newark, Chicago and Austin, Texas, rounded out the top 10.

 Read More CoStar Amazon HQ2 Coverage 

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has said its second headquarters will employ 50,000 people within about 10 years and produce $5 billion in capital spending. The company started out with bids from 238 cities and it narrowed the list to 20 finalists, and its announcement of the final city could come anytime before Jan. 1.

The study found that 47 percent of site-selection consultants across the country predicted that other companies would like Amazon's approach so much they would copy the strategy and ask regions to submit bids for any key relocations or new facilities.

If Amazon chooses Northern Virginia, its offices would be located at Data Center Alley, near Dulles National Airport. According to CoStar data, new transportation systems are already in the works, and Google recently purchased 91 acres in the area, where it plans to build a data center. The area is dominated by technology and data center companies, CoStar said.

The survey said the benefits of Northern Virginia included proximity to the federal government, the airport and a highly trained technology workforce. The negatives include a lack of infrastructure, traffic congestion and "lack of an urban core."

Jim Beatty, president of NCS International -- which provides site selection and real estate services to corporations, but has not worked with Amazon -- agreed with the findings, except that Toronto wasn’t on his list.

"I don’t see Amazon going to Canada," he said, adding that the company would most likely stick within the United States.

Here are the results:

1) Northern Virginia, 60 percent.

2) Washington, D.C., 53 percent.

3) Atlanta, 51 percent.

4) Boston, Toronto, tied at 40 percent.

5) Dallas, 32 percent.

6) Montgomery County, Maryland, 28 percent.

7) Newark, New Jersey, 26 percent.

8) Chicago, 23 percent.

9) Austin, Texas, and Raleigh, North Carolina, tied at 21 percent.

10) New York City, 15 percent.

11) Denver, 13 percent.

12) Nashville, Tennessee, 13 percent.

13) Indianapolis, 9 percent.

14) Philadelphia, 9 percent.

15) Columbus, Ohio, 8 percent.

16) Pittsburgh, 8 percent.

17) Miami, 6 percent

18) Los Angeles, 4 percent.
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