- Amazon announced in November it would place its HQ2 project in two cities: Long Island City, Queens, in New York City and Arlington in Virginia.
- Northern Virginia and New York City are two locations that were seen as obvious places any tech company would move.
- That is a far cry from the original pitch for HQ2, which Amazon billed as completely up in the air, making HQ2 the biggest troll of the year.
Amazon found its HQ2 this year. And, apparently, its HQ3.
The company announced in November that it will split its second-headquarters project between two cities: New York, in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens, and Arlington, Virginia, in the Crystal City neighborhood (now renamed National Landing).
Selecting two cities is something of a curveball because it was not originally part of the plan Amazon had proposed for HQ2.
In fact, on the website it created when it announced the HQ2 project, in September 2017, Amazon said the purpose of the entire project was to create “a full equal to our current campus in Seattle.”
Now, everything Amazon promised goes out the window. What makes these two locations different from Amazon’s presence in other cities where it has offices, such as Boston or Los Angeles?
In fact, Amazon already has a sizable number of employees in both the DC area and New York City. New York already has the largest number of employees outside Seattle, and Amazon employs thousands of workers in each city.
A small note at the bottom of Amazon’s RFP did, however, hint at it as a possibility of two separate campuses, but the locations themselves were anything but surprises.
Amazon said tech talent is what drew it to the two places, with Northern Virginia and New York City each having the biggest pools outside of the West Coast.
If that’s the case, why did Amazon hold the public contest at all?
With two locations splitting what the company has billed as a $5 billion investment and 50,000 new jobs, Amazon’s initial promise would ring hollow. Neither would be anywhere close to equal to Seattle, where Amazon said now has more than 40,000 employees and has made $3.7 billion in capital investment.
Effectively, it would mean that Amazon wouldn’t have a true second headquarters — something that some critics have been claiming all along.
It may have something to do with Amazon’s sensitivity to criticism that no one municipality could absorb the large impact of its HQ2 as it was proposed.
Splitting it into two could remove some objections from local leaders, but it would also take away some of the project’s luster.
Less downside, in this case, also means less upside. New York and Arlington reportedly will get Amazon, but they won’t get HQ2. Nobody will.
That makes Amazon’s HQ2 saga the biggest bait and switch of 2018.