Canada’s major cities vying for Amazon HQ

TORONTO — Canada’s major cities are vying to become Amazon’s second home, with the mayors of Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal all planning to pitch the technology giant on their virtues.

Amazon announced on Thursday it is hunting for a site for a new headquarters in North America, in addition to its sprawling Seattle hub, and called for cities to submit their proposals.

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

“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,” he said in a statement.

Tory will have a challenger in Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who said the West Coast metropolis is a top contender for Amazon’s next headquarters.

“Vancouver’s world-class tech ecosystem is chock-full of top talent, a prime gateway for international business, a green economy hub and consistently rated as a top liveable city,” Robertson said in a statement.

Other mayors took to Twitter to announce their interest and tout why their city deserves the US$5 billion Amazon says it plans to spend on the new campus that will house as many as 50,000 staff.

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said on Twitter he would convince Amazon that the city is its dream metropolis, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson talked up the Edmonton Innovation Corridor, while London, Ont., Mayor Matt Brown noted the affordability of the city.

Waterloo, Ont., home to two universities and several U.S. technology giant offices, may also be a good fit, but Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky’s spokesperson said it was too early to comment.

Amazon says any city hoping to score the investment will have to meet some key criteria, including a prime location, access to mass transit, and proximity to an international airport.

The potential site itself would have to have room to grow, Amazon said, as it wants to expand its new headquarters to as much as eight million square feet in the next decade.

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.

Shauna Brail, director of the University of Toronto’s urban studies program, said his home city appears to be the most suited of Canadian contenders.

“Toronto would absolutely be the front runner, first as an urban region of six million people with access to many millions more people… within a 90-minute flight from the city. It has access to an airport, access to strong local clusters in terms of education, training, in terms of finance and real estate,” she said.

Brail said there could be negative effects from such a big player moving in such as gentrification, transit congestion and increased house prices, but on balance she said it would have more pros than cons.

However, with U.S. President Donald Trump’s America First stance, there may be political pressure for Amazon to establish its second headquarters within its own borders, she said.

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

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