Los Angeles’ bid for Amazon’s second headquarters was immediately panned by business analysts last fall.
Too much traffic. Too expensive. Too much in taxes.
None of the critics’ denunciation, though, deterred the online retailing giant from naming L.A. as one of 20 finalists on Thursday for its planned HQ2, a $5 billion project that would mirror its 33-building Seattle campus that covers 8.1 million square feet and create “as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs,” according to the company.
The “single master proposal” from the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation includes nine potential sites – including FivePoint Holding’s Newhall Ranch, with a projected 11.5 million square feet of commercial space, said Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley EDC.
“We know the tremendous opportunity we have to offer in the greater Los Angeles region, so we’re excited that Amazon is also recognizing that opportunity,” Schroeder told The Signal. “Most of the analysts completely discounted Los Angeles, but this demonstrates the power of the greater metropolitan region.”
In a Thursday afternoon statement posted to the LAEDC website, CEO Bill Allen said “we are in it to win it.”
“We are thrilled that Amazon has selected Los Angeles County as one of the 20 finalist locations for HQ2,” Allen said. “Our proposal highlighted L.A.’s large and highly educated talent pool and our unparalleled education pipeline, logistics infrastructure, transit connectivity, global connectedness, quality of life and cultural fit with Amazon. We look forward to working with Amazon in this next phase of their site selection process as they delve deeper into the benefits of locating their HQ2 in the L.A. region.”
In whittling a far-flung list of 238 possibilities to a slimmer grouping of finalists, Amazon eliminated nearly every proposal from the western United States – including Portland and Salt Lake City, both of which made Moody Analytics’ top 10 list in October – as well as bids from San Diego and Irvine.
Of the 20 finalists, and seeming to support industry speculation that Amazon wants to stretch east, only L.A. and Denver are located outside the Eastern or Central time zones.
“We are looking for a location with strong local and regional talent – particularly in software development and related fields – as well as a stable and business-friendly environment to continue hiring and innovating on behalf of our customers,” Amazon said in a Thursday statement.
GeekWire, a technology news website based in Seattle, predicted Amazon would choose one of its three finalists near Washington, D.C., citing founder Jeff Bezos’ recent purchase of a home in the area and his ownership of The Washington Post.
One of two Texas finalists, Austin, was No. 4 on GeekWire’s list, followed by Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Dallas, Atlanta, and Raleigh, North Carolina.
In ranking L.A. as the most unlikely destination among the 20 finalists, GeekWire wrote: “Traffic and the tax structure sucks, and while Amazon is growing its presence in the movie and entertainment business in a big way, I just don’t think you’ll see HQ2 in Hollywood.”
While labeling L.A. as a surprise finalist because its proximity to Amazon’s home base in Seattle, Forbes reported Thursday that “it does meet all of the (company’s) other desired characteristics.”
A USA TODAY analysis pointed to “soul-crushing traffic” as a detractor but also touted the L.A. area’s ability to recruit from an educated populous.
The other finalists are: Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis; Miami; Nashville; New York; Newark, New Jersey; and Toronto.
In the coming months, Amazon said Thursday it would “dive deeper” into the 20 final proposals to “evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate our hiring plans as well as benefit our employees and the local community.”
Locally, Schroeder said the SCVEDC would continue to work with its L.A. counterpart to “respond to questions and provide additional information” in its bid to pull a surprise.
“It’s a win for the L.A. region if it goes anywhere in the greater metropolitan area, but we would love to see it in the Santa Clarita Valley,” Schroeder said.
Amazon plans to choose its final destination in 2018.