16 September 2019
The Helmsley Building in New York is illuminated in Amazon Orange in support for the city’s official bid for Amazon's second headquarters. Photo: Bloomberg
The Helmsley Building in New York is illuminated in Amazon Orange in support for the city’s official bid for Amazon's second headquarters. Photo: Bloomberg

What HK can learn from the bidding war for Amazon headquarters

Hangzhou has become a leading city thanks to Alibaba, and Shenzhen has been at the forefront of innovation and technology thanks to Tencent and Huawei. Outside China, we have seen how a cluster of tech firms has changed Silicon Valley and Seattle. Given this, it’s no wonder that getting a tech giant to set up its headquarters in your home city is seen as an economic golden ticket.

Amazon is looking to establish a second headquarters in North America, and, not surprisingly, more than 100 cities are falling over themselves trying to lure the company.

Amazon announced that it plans to build a second headquarters, adding to the existing facility in Seattle, to cope with fast expansion.

The e-commerce giant will spend more than US$5 billion in construction of the second headquarters, which will offer 50,000 high-paying tech jobs. Also, the new facility is expected to generate tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in investment in the surrounding communities.

In its search for the right location, Amazon has listed out a number of criteria.

First, it is looking for a metro area with population of at least one million. Amazon also wants the place to have an international airport, mass transit, quality higher education, apart from educated workforce and a business-friendly environment.

The announcement has drawn a flood of pitches from across the US, from big cities like New York, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta, as also some smaller ones. In all, more than 100 cities have expressed interest in making a run, CNBC reported.

Some cities went to great lengths to catch Amazon’s attention in the fierce contest.

For example, New York lit up key landmarks around the city, like the Empire State Building, in Amazon’s signature orange color. Newark in New Jersey offered a US$7 billion tax credit deal to lure the tech behemoth. Stonecrest in Georgia even offered to rename itself Amazon after the company.

Winning the bid would not only secure 50,000 new jobs and an immediate economic boost to local economy, having Amazon on board would also greatly enhance the profile of a city and help lure more tech firms and startups.

in Asia, numerous global tech firms have set up their regional headquarters in Singapore, with the list including names such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft. That has brought a lot of benefits to the city-state’s economy, growth and technology.

But other players, including Amazon, Uber and Tesla, have yet to decide upon the location of their Asia Pacific headquarters.

If Hong Kong wants to win them over, the bidding war for Amazon will certainly offer some useful tips.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct 23

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist