The buzz is building for Amazon’s HQ2

(GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

The buzz is building for Amazon’s highly-touted HQ2 efforts — the company’s ambitious plan to build a secondary headquarters that could rival — or possibly surpass — its massive operation in Seattle.

The stage is set, with 20 finalists now in the running for a new headquarters that could employ as many as 50,000 workers. A decision is reportly coming soon, and the speculation game is heating up. Here’s some of what we are tracking at GeekWire HQ1 in Seattle’s lovely Fremont neighborhood.

  • The October or November surprise! Amazon loves to make massive — and sometimes offbeat — announcements in the fourth quarter, in part to drive brand awareness as shoppers start thinking about where to do their holiday shopping. Jeff Bezos appeared on “60 Minutes” on Dec. 1, 2013 to announce its drone delivery program, and the company launched the original Kindle e-reader device on Nov. 19, 2007. My guess for the Amazon HQ2 go date: Monday November 13th — after the midterm elections occur, with plenty of time to sell more stuff before Thanksgiving, which is November 22.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports today that Amazon officials recently made repeat visits to some of the 20 finalists, including New York City, Newark and Chicago, which the Journal suggests means the company is looking at more urban environments. That would mirror how Amazon has grown in Seattle’s own South Lake Union and Denny Triangle neighborhoods, and indicates a personal preference that Bezos has publicly discussed, noting in 2013 that an urban campus is “inherently environmentally friendly.” Miami — where Bezos attended high school — and Washington D.C. — where Bezos owns The Washington Post and recently purchased a home — also have gotten repeat visits. Raleigh, according to the WSJ, hasn’t heard a peep.
  • Virginia is For Lovers, and quite possibly Amazon. Over at The New York Times, Karen Weise reported Thursday that “the growing consensus is that the place that checks the most boxes is Northern Virginia” — including a more favorable tax structure and building requirements, especially compared to neighboring D.C. And the place that could win Amazon HQ2 is a spot called Crystal City, Virginia located just south of Washington D.C. across the Potomac River. The former headquarters of U.S. Airways, Wikipedia notes that Crystal City was “mostly composed of industrial sites, junkyards, and low-rent motels.” Sounds a bit like South Lake Union, before it was redeveloped by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and later became home to Amazon. As Weise notes, “Crystal City is about as close to Washington as possible while still being in Virginia” — located a few metro stops away from D.C. (For what it’s worth, here at GeekWire, we’ve been fluctuating between Toronto and Washington D.C. as our top picks, though former GeekWire HQ2 location of Pittsburgh is a fan favorite around our offices).
  • We’ve been noting for months that the key factor in the HQ2 decision will be simple: Where can Amazon attract the smartest engineers. That’s why we did an analysis a few weeks ago looking at Amazon’s hiring patterns in the 20 HQ2 finalists. What did we find? Giving weight to The New York Times reporting, look who comes out on top.
  • Bezos, global conquerer. And, just for a little bit of fun this morning and given the overall craziness of this HQ2 sweepstakes, check out The Onion’s wonderful headline and lede. You Are All Inside Amazon’s Second Headquarters,’ Jeff Bezos Announces To Horrified Americans As Massive Dome Envelops NationSEATTLE—”After a search for a new location lasting more than a year, a massive dome was seen descending from the sky and enclosing the whole nation Friday as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced to a horrified American populace that it was now living inside his company’s second headquarters.” The Onion goes on to conclude the piece with this information: “At press time, as Bezos was hinting that Amazon might begin construction on a third headquarters, an immense titanium shell was seen enclosing the planet Earth.”