Toronto makes shortlist for Amazon HQ

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In a statement last Thursday, Amazon announced the 20 cities that are the candidates for the company’s second headquarters. Of all 20 locations, only one was located outside of the United States: Toronto. From a total of 238 bids from various cities across North America, other finalists include Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, New York, Atlanta, and Nashville. Amazon is currently headquartered in Seattle, and will invest 5-billion into the chosen city, as well create an estimated 50,000 jobs.

In a lot of ways, Toronto’s pitch to Amazon was more subdued than many of its competitors. Ed Clark, a former executive with TD Bank, was chosen by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to lead on Toronto’s bid to secure the deal with the e-commerce company. Clark promised the city would not “bribe” Amazon like other municipalities throughout the US, making clear in a statement to CBC News that Toronto would focus on highlighting its existing attributes.

“[The other cities] say you just tell us what cheque you want us to write, we will write that cheque, We’re not in that business,” Clark declared in his statement.

Other cities attempting to win the bid made much outlandish promises to the tech giant. The town of Frisco, Texas offered to literally build the city and its infrastructure around Amazon. A firm based in Dallas proposed a $15 billion bullet train station built around the new headquarters. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offered Amazon seven-billion in tax breaks to come to his state, and Philadelphia countered with a proposal for Amazon to give the company three locations in the city, totaling 28 million square-feet.

On Twitter, US Representative Keith Ellison made his disapproval of these promises clear in a statement. He tweeted the following: “Something is deeply wrong with our economy & democracy when local governments offer up their tax base to a corporation worth over $500 billion.”

Clark did say that there are large obstacles in the way of Toronto landing the bid. Perhaps the biggest issue would be US President Donald Trump, who has argued for keeping American jobs from moving overseas. The Trump administration, working in tandem with the Republican-controlled legislature, has also recently passed a major tax reform bill that will attempt to incentivize companies to stay inside the country by lowering the corporate tax rate. Many analysts and commentators believe that a decision by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to move the second HQ outside of the US would be a bold statement to Trump.

In a statement following the announcement, Toronto Mayor John Tory welcomed the news of making the shortlist.

“The Toronto Region has emerged as a global centre of innovation and technology because of our talented, diverse and inclusive workforce. There is no other city region in North America that can boast the same talent, the same quality of life, the same vibrancy and economic strength,” Tory said in his official statement. Premier Kathleen Wynne has echoed his thoughts, including highlighting Canada’s immigrant population and the universal health-care program.

The city has also committed to drawing more STEM students to the city’s post-secondary institutions as part of the bid. Another possible factor in Toronto being shortlisted may be the recent announcement that Sidewalk Labs, which is owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google, will build a futuristic neighbourhood in the city.  The deal will have Sidewalk Labs invest fifty-million into planning and testing for the new neighbourhood, which will incorporate ‘smart’ building design to reduce impact of weather. Sidewalk Labs also plans to be environmentally conscious in its design, which will include tree planting, reducing pollution and commuting, and reducing landfill and water consumption.

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