Amazon is looking for its home away from home and urging cities to come up with their best sales pitch to make them move in.
The Seattle-based company said Thursday it is looking for locations for something the e-commerce giant is calling HQ2 — a second headquarters, in effect. The company says it will invest $5 billion US to develop the site and eventually house as many as 50,000 workers in more than eight million square feet of space within a decade.
The site will be a "full equal" to the company's current Seattle headquarters, where it has been based since 2010. "Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs," founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said.
"We're excited to find a second home."
Amazon says it has added $38 billion US to Seattle's economy since setting up shop there in 2016, but is looking for a second headquarters as it expands from its current 380,000 workers.
The plan is to grow the site's workforce to 50,000 eventually, with average salaries in excess of $100,000 US, Amazon says.
The company says it is looking for either "urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent" and must be near metropolitan areas of at least one million people. Amazon says it expects to pick the location by next year.
Interested cities are encouraged to submit their pitches via a dedicated website until Oct. 19, and several Canadian cities are already making it known that they are interested, including Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Halifax.
"I firmly believe that Toronto is a prime candidate to host Amazon's second headquarters in North America," Mayor John Tory told CBC News in a statement, citing the "bold, innovative" city's technology talent.
We are a bold, innovative city that has plenty of homegrown tech talent. We continue to attract talent & companies from around the world.— @JohnTory
"City staff are working with Toronto Global to make sure we put together an attractive bid for this opportunity," Tory said. "I will be leading the charge to make the case that Amazon should call Toronto home."
Toby Lennox, the chief executive of Global Toronto, said Canadian cities like Toronto should be at the top of Amazon's list.
"Toronto has everything they're looking for," he said in an interview.
Lennox said growth in Toronto's technology sector is outpacing that seen in other hubs like New York and Silicon Valley, and the city offers low taxation and access to U.S. markets that other cities can't compete with. "I really think we're offering Amazon everything they require."
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson says his city is also interested, citing how the city's "world-class tech ecosystem is chock-full of top talent."
"As mayor, I — in partnership with the Vancouver Economic Commission — will put forward an outstanding bid for Amazon's next North American HQ that will put Vancouver over and above other cities."
Michael Tippett, the CEO of Vancouver-based technology company Wantoo, said the city has a lot to offer Amazon, including a thriving technology scene and proximity to its current headquarters in Seattle. "Amazon would be lucky to have [us] and we'd be lucky to have them too," he said.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage told CBC News by telephone that his city plans to put together a "wow bid" to the company. Savage also trumpets the city's status as a growing technology hub, at a lower cost than other jurisdictions.
"We're already thinking about how to respond," he said. "It's a great place with tons of startups."
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said his city will also be pitching to Amazon for HQ2. He said the company would have its pick of either a suburban or urban headquarters in Calgary.
"There are opportunities to build on bare ground, there are opportunities to move into existing buildings.… there are also suburban opportunities," Nenshi said.
"It would be very difficult to imagine any other city in North America able to compete the way we could."
Canadian cities will not be the only ones to express an interest, however, as Amazon is expanding rapidly. In just the last month it announced plans to build three new warehouses in Oregon, New York and Ohio to pack and ship packages. And it recently paid close to $14 billion US to buy organic grocer Whole Foods and its more than 465 stores, including 13 in Canada. The company plans to hire 100,000 people by the middle of next year.
There are 24 restaurants and cafés within Amazon's Seattle campus alone, where more than 40,000 people are employed. The increase in personal income around the Seattle headquarters for people not employed by Amazon increased by about $17 billion US due to direct investments, according to the company.
Blair Patacairk, managing director of Invest Ottawa, said Canadian cities will be competing against aggressive suitors in the U.S., "and they're going to go hard at this one — they're going to put serious cash on the table."
But he said Canadian cities like Ottawa have much to offer.
He cited Ottawa's strong track record of building market-leading technology companies like Nortel, Shopify and others. "We have that track record of building solid companies," he said. "You're going to be hard-pressed not to put Ottawa at the top of the list of places to look in North America to put Amazon."
Tippett, meanwhile, said the company should strongly consider Canada, even if it doesn't end up taking Vancouver's sales pitch.
"I think there's a whole whack of great Canadian cities that are all contenders," he said "I'd love to see any one of them win."