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Amazon HQ2: Is the short list about to get shorter?

Author: Mark Harden - April 30, 2018 - Updated: May 17, 2018

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Denver and 19 other North American locations remain in the running as potential sites for Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters campus. (Courtesy Amazon)

Amazon.com Inc. says it will choose from among Denver and 19 other finalists as the site for its sprawling second headquarters campus later this year, some watchers of the process expect that a shorter version of the “Amazon Hq2” short list may be coming soon before the winning site is announced.

One goal of issuing a shorter list, a watcher of the HQ2 hunt tells USA Today, could be to ratchet up pressure on the remaining candidate cities to offer even sweeter incentives packages than they already have in hopes of winning a $5 billion complex that could mean 50,000 high-paying jobs.

Reports USA Today:

“One and perhaps even two more rounds of finalists are likely, said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes economic accountability in development deals. There’s simply too much leverage to be gained from wringing more incentives out of the next rung for Amazon to immediately announce a winner.”

It’s unknown whether Denver’s pitch to Amazon — coordinated by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., an arm of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce — contains tax breaks or other financial incentives. The private Metro Denver EDC has kept secret key details of the package.

Amazon executives reportedly scouted the Denver area in February, dining in secret with Gov. John Hickenlooper at the time.

The Seattle-based e-commerce titan has not commented on speculation about whether it plans multiple rounds of finalists, but it has said it expects to announced a final choice later this year.

The current finalist list of 19 U.S. and one Canadian locations was winnowed down from nearly 240 cities that submitted bids.

Among those who seek to predict Amazon’s choice for its sprawling second headquarters campus, many assume that the company will pick an eastern U.S. site to give it geographic diversity.

Of the 20 HQ2 finalist sites, only four (including Denver) are west of the Mississippi River, and more than half are in East Coast states.

Most recent site speculation has focused on the three finalist locations in and around Washington, D.C.

Some note Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos’ existing connections to the area, including his ownership of the Washington Post and the fact that in October 2016 he bought a lavish home in D.C.: a 27,000-square-foot property for which he paid $23 million in cash.

And at a time when President Donald Trump has challenged Amazon repeatedly, accusing it of being a monopoly and getting unfairly low postal rates for its packages, placing HQ2 in or near the nation’s capital would position the company closer to the seat of federal power and influence.

Other cities that crop up frequently on HQ2 prognosticators’ lists are Atlanta, Austin and Boston.

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.