One Eastern Washington city’s unlikely play for Amazon’s second North American headquarters

Downtown Spokane, Wash. (Wikimedia Photo / Jdubman)

Spokane is determined not to sit on the bench while other cities duke it out for Amazon’s second corporate headquarters.

The Eastern Washington city, historically a trade outpost for the agricultural and logging industries, is working on a response to Amazon’s request for proposals for a “fully equal” headquarters outside of its hometown, Seattle. That’s according to a report from Spokane’s Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Spokane will join a deluge of cities across North America bidding on Amazon’s HQ2, in the hopes of securing the 50,000 jobs Amazon says the facility will support. But in exchange for that job creation, Amazon has some pretty specific requirements.

The Seattle tech titan is seeking a metropolitan area with more than one million people and locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent. As the Spokesman itself humbly points out, Spokane is a bit of a reach.

That led to a collective head scratch in GeekWire’s team Slack. Here are a few choice snippets:

  • “Spokane metro population: 556,634 Barely half of what Amazon has explicitly stated as their minimum requirement.”
  • “Maybe these cities just want to attract any biz, and going at Amazon is good practice?”
  • “How many workers at Amazon now are saying: ‘I’m tired of Seattle, I want to move to Spokane’ vs. their hometowns of Boston or Austin or Chicago? Sorry, Spokane, this is not happening.”

Still, Spokane does have a few advantages, including a burgeoning startup scene.

“We’re really poised for a potential breakout,” Tom Simpson, founder of Spokane startup Etailz told GeekWire in a previous interview. He later added, “We’re not Seattle. We’re not San Francisco but there’s a reasonably high-level of [startup] activity going on.”

Spokane also has Washington State University and Idaho University in its backyard and its proximity to Amazon’s current HQ1 could be an advantage.

Even so, Spokane may just be using the RFP to get on Amazon’s radar instead of actually playing to win. Spokane Chief Executive Todd Mielke told the Spokesman that even if his region isn’t selected, it’s a good opportunity to get Amazon’s attention.