Based on total sales and market capitalization, Amazon.com, Inc. is the largest online retailer in the world. It was founded in July 1994 in Seattle, Wash. and has quickly expanded. The company recently announced its plans to open a second headquarters (HQ2). Amazon began its search for viable locations and released a Request for Proposal form that lists the necessary requirements and outlines the project in detail.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed that HQ2 will act as a full headquarters and have all the same capabilities as the Seattle branch. The opportunity to create thousands of jobs and a general economic boost has sparked a competitive attitude in cities across the U.S. that fit the desired mold. According to the proposal request form, Bezos is placing preference on metropolitan areas with at least a million citizens, a stable and friendly business environment, locations with the potential to attract and retain technical talent and communities that will think big when considering areas for construction of the headquarters.
The project is expected to incur construction and operating costs of $5 billion. However, the chosen city will be making a long-term investment. Between 2010-2016, Amazon has provided the Seattle’s economy with $38 billion. In 2017, the City of Seattle granted the company an award for its contributions.
Mayor Sly James and Kansas City Manager Troy Schulte expressed an interest in placing Kansas City in the running, but the city has been left off most lists of major candidates. In a New York Times report, Kansas City didn’t even make it past the first criterion of strong job growth.
One main concern across the metro area and a potential setback for hosting HQ2 is transportation. Kansas City has been engaged in a long debate surrounding the construction of a new airport terminal. Since this problem is still up in the air, Amazon employees would be restricted on travel. Currently, Kansas City is the largest city in the nation that does not offer direct flights to Europe. Public transportation within the city also poses a problem. The streetcar only covers a two mile track. While this is improvement from the past, it is not suitable to sustain a major corporation.
Population employability is another strong factor affecting Amazon’s decision. It is recruiting individuals with “strong technical talent,” and universities in the surrounding Kansas City area cannot compete with other locations like Boston that have graduates coming from schools like Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A 2016 study in Kansas City revealed that 4,700 tech jobs were available because no candidates met the criteria.
Technical talent aside, Kansas City might not have the manpower HQ2 is demanding. HQ2 is searching to employ 50,000 individuals. At the end of 2016, Cerner, the largest Kansas City employer besides the federal government, employed only about 12,000 individuals.
In an interview with “The Kansas City Star,” Schulte says that he is trying to place Kansas City on Amazon’s radar. The main selling point for Kansas City that he presented is the quality of life and low cost of living.
Kansas City, like all other cities in the running for HQ2, would benefit from the economic boost that Amazon would bring. Despite falling short on some Amazon’s criteria, Kansas City officials will continue to fight for Amazon’s consideration and create a city to be noticed on the map, not just another flyover state.