London Mayor calls for provincial push for Amazon, critic says chances slim

Several city politicians are vying for the chance to bring Amazon’s new multibillion-dollar tech site to London and one Western University professor says the chances are slim to none.

“I don’t think that London or any Canadian city has a very good chance at getting these headquarters”

The Amazon logo is displayed at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. Amazon has announced that it has opened the search for a second headquarters. (Richard Drew/The Associated Press)

An Ivey Business school professor calls London's chances of bringing Amazon to town "slim to none" but Mayor Matt Brown believes a collaborative approach might help bring the retail giant to Ontario.

The Seattle-based company announced last week a plan to spend more than $5 billion to build a second headquarters in North America, a project that Amazon said would create 50,000 jobs over 15 years.

The retail giant put out calls for bids to compete for the opportunity, which has drawn attention from several Canadian cities including London. Brown and Coun. Josh Morgan will present a letter of proposal to other councillors on Monday. 

However, Davin Raiha who's an assistant professor at Ivey, said that Amazon will most likely choose an American city.

"I don't think that London or any Canadian city has a very good chance at getting these headquarters," he said. "Canadian jurisdictions are not as competitive as U.S. jurisdictions in terms of aggressively pursuing these big projects."

London Mayor Matt Brown is among a group of seven Canadian mayors extolling the merits of NAFTA with American mayors in Washington. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Province wide approach 

Raiha also said the city would have to be confident with its technology leadership, which he said still has a long way to go.

"London's got a lot of attractive features to it but it's not the immediate obvious place when you think of electronic commerce," he said.

Raiha pointed to another stumbling block for Canadian cities interested in Amazon: finding enough employees who could cross back and forth to the United States. A potentially tricky situation given the current political climate in the U.S. 

For his part, Mayor Brown is calling for a province-wide approach to luring Amazon.

"It's going to require a team Ontario approach – communities from right across the province working together and putting out the best collective foot forward and saying this is something we can do collectively."

Still, Brown would prefer to have Amazon in London, possibly with workers from other cities in Ontario commuting to London using a proposed high speed rail system.

"We're looking at opportunities to benefit from an investment like this whether in London, within the region, or across the province, it would have a positive impact."

Politicians in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary have expressed interest in having the tech giant build in their cities.