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Op-ed: Is Columbus worthy of Amazon’s new HQ?

Thursday, Amazon announced the 20 finalist cities for their soon-to-be epic second headquarters. This half a million square foot piece of office real estate should produce around 50,000 six-figure jobs and $5 billion in economic benefits wherever it lands up. And out of the 238 cities across North America, Mexico, and Canada that swiped right when Amazon starting trolling for proposals, we made the short list (even though it was a surprise to both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times). 

(And yes, Austin is on the list too. Will #SaveTheCrew folks start shouting at Alexa?) 

Does Columbus really have a chance to land the new Amazon headquarters?  

Pros

  • They know the area (Amazon already employees 6,000 in Columbus between two warehouses, three data centers, and multiple Whole Foods locations) 
  • Reports show that Central Ohio is a leader in attracting and keeping talented tech folks (Amazon’s number one requirement). That $100k average salary can buy a lot more house here than in Chicago.  
  • Events like the NCAA Women’s Final Four is starting to show people nationally that Columbus thinks big. 

Cons 

  • First and foremost, Amazon is looking to move east to be a bigger lobbying influence on the feds. You can see that with three of the twenty finalists within a Thor hammer throw of the Capitol. 
  • If mass transit is as important to Amazon as many pundits think, C-Max probably won’t fill that need.  
  • Did we offer them anything more than OSU vs Michigan tix?  Governor Kasich insists that we won’t “buy deals” with tax incentives. Many other locations are willing to pony up for incentives so this could be a real wild card in the decision. 

Some unanswered questions

  • In releasing a “finalist” list, is Amazon trying to create some unfriendly competition to get a sweeter deal? Kasich’s reluctance to deal might not sit well. 
  • Boston is on the list. Boston is also where Amazon is already in talks to obtain about 500,000 square feet of office space. Is the decision already made? 

Bottom Line

Columbus has as a good chance as any of the medium size cities on the final list. But don’t be shocked if Boston or one of the DC area spots lands this (is there 500,000 square feet of office space open on K Street?). And most importantly, anywhere but Austin! 

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