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Communities / Economics

Two views on DC’s chances to land Amazon HQ2

Along with a chance for a big economic development win, the Amazon RFP is a moment to take stock of what kind of city D.C. wants to be.

What do the locals do around here? (Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)

With Amazon’s announcement that it’s looking for a city to open a second headquarters that would bring 50,000 jobs D.C. appeared on plenty of short lists.

For one, there was urbanist academic Richard Florida, who has written about the movement of tech jobs and the creative class. He put D.C. as his number one choice for HQ2.

“It is a walkable, reasonably dense, transit served urban center with a very high percentage of knowledge workers on the Acela Corridor,” Florida wrote on Twitter.

There are other proposals that could fit that bill, like Philly, Baltimore.  College Park, Md. and Arlington, Va., are also putting in bids.

But to Florida, it’s not just about meeting the requirements of the RFP. Florida notes that Amazon already has local ties through founder Jeff Bezos’ ownership of the Washington Post and new $23 million house here. And, with the government’s presence, “A 2nd HQ location in DC would afford Bezos the opportunity to be involved in the highest levels of strategy while living in DC,” Florida wrote.

Along with prompting economic development pros to rush to form partnerships and get a proposal out the door by Oct. 19, the HQ2 bonanza is also providing a moment for cities to consider their landscape, and what they need going forward.

In a column for Bloomberg View, Megan McArdle considers the effects HQ2 would have on housing, taxes and density, but also on how the city wants to think about its future.

Washington is fundamentally a company town, its economy ringed in concentric circles around the federal government. That can be rather cozy (everyone understands what it is you do at work), but it can also be rather dull. Most Washingtonians of this class would love to see the city diversify into real industries that think about problems other than what’s going on with the Federal Register.

McArdle ultimately concludes that she would be “surprised” if Amazon chooses D.C. But, as she notes, the company ultimately makes the call.

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