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Toronto vying to become Amazon’s second home in North America

CityNews | posted Friday, Sep 8th, 2017

In this May 30, 2017, file photo, the Amazon logo is displayed at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Richard Drew

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he will be “leading the charge” to convince Amazon that it should call the city its second home.

Amazon announced on Thursday that it is hunting for a site for a new headquarters in North America, in addition to its sprawling Seattle hub.

Mayor Tory says he believes Toronto is a “prime candidate.”

“We are a bold, innovative city that has plenty of homegrown tech talent. We also continue to attract talent and companies from around the world… I will be leading the charge to make the case that Amazon should call Toronto home,” he said in a statement.

City staff are working with Toronto Global, a new agency dedicated to attracting global investment to Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, to put together an “attractive bid for this opportunity,” Tory added.

Amazon says that it will spend more than $5 billion US to build another headquarters in North America to house as many as 50,000 employees. The technology company plans to stay in its current Seattle headquarters and the new space will be “a full equal” of its current home, said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

Cities have until Oct. 19 to apply through a special website, and Amazon said it will make a final decision next year.

While many cities will likely be clamouring to make their pitch to Amazon as well, candidates must meet specific requirements to be considered. Key criteria include: a prime location, access to mass transit and proximity to an international airport. Any potential site must have room to grow, as Amazon wants to expand its new headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade. That’s about the same size as its current home in Seattle.

Other Canadian cities, such as Waterloo or Vancouver, may also fit the bill. A spokesman for Waterloo mayor Dave Jaworsky says it is too early to comment.

Amazon said its search is open to any metropolitan area in North America that meets the parameters — the city itself doesn’t necessarily have to be a million people — but declined to say how open it was to going outside of the United States.

“We want to find a city that is excited to work with us and where our customers, employees, and the community can all benefit,” the company said on its search website, about why it was choosing its second headquarters through a public process.

Bezos has crowdsourced major decisions in the past. In June, just before Amazon announced its plan to buy organic grocer Whole Foods, the billionaire took to Twitter seeking ideas for a philanthropic strategy to give away some of his fortune. And tech companies have been known to set places in competition with each other: In vying to land Google’s ultra-fast broadband network, many cities used stunts and gimmickry to get the company’s attention. Topeka even informally renamed itself “Google, Kansas.”

In just the last month, Amazon announced plans to build three new warehouses that pack and ship packages in New York, Ohio and Oregon. And it recently paid close to $14 billion US for Whole Foods and its more than 465 stores. The company plans to hire 100,000 people by the middle of next year, adding to its current worldwide staff of more than 380,000.

Amazon’s current campus in Seattle takes up 8.1 million square feet, has 33 buildings and 24 restaurants and is home to more than 40,000 employees. At the second headquarters, Amazon said it will hire up to 50,000 new full-time employees over the next 15 years who would have an average pay of more than $100,000 US a year.

Amazon’s website about the search lauds the benefits it can bring to a community. And Amazon’s arrival could transform an area: Until 10 years ago, the neighbourhood near Seattle’s campus just north of downtown was dotted with auto parts stores and low-rent apartments. Now the area is a booming pocket of high-rise office complexes, sleek apartment buildings and tony restaurants.

However, Amazon’s rise has not been without local critics, who say the influx of mostly well-heeled tech workers has caused housing prices to skyrocket, clogged the streets with traffic and changed the city for the worse. The Seattle Times reported Thursday that the median price for a house in August in Seattle was $730,000, up almost 17 per cent in a year.

With files from the Associated Press

 

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