HQ2, eh? Amazon draws bids from Canadian cities to be online seller's other home

Amazon's announcement earlier this year that it is on the hunt for a second headquarters set off a flurry of interest from cities across the continent, eager to be the online giant's next home away from home. With the deadline to apply now passed, what Canadian cities followed through and threw their hats into the ring?

More than 10 Canadian cities have made their case — possibly more we don't know about yet

An employee exits the warehouse floor of the warehouse in Hyderabad, India. The company is looking for a new second headquarters, and many Canadian cities have thrown their hats into the ring. (Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Amazon's announcement earlier this year that it wants a second headquarters set off a flurry of interest from cities across the continent, all eager to be a new home to the biggest online merchandise seller in the world.

Many Canadian cities were interested. With the deadline to apply passed Thursday, what cities followed through and put their hats into the ring? Exact details of bids are still largely a secret, as is a complete list of who's in the running.

But we do know some Canadian cities that officially took their best shot.


The Canadian city closest to Amazon's Seattle home was interested from Day 1, pitching closesness to Amazon's existing home base as a major selling point. 

"Proximity to Seattle is something nobody else in Canada can lay claim to," Ian McKay, CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission, confirmed to CBC News this week. "We focused on the built-in incentives in Vancouver that have made us No. 1 in the tech system in Canada.… We really like our chances."

Langford, B.C., near Victoria, has also submitted a bid, promoting its affordable housing and proximity to universities and colleges.


Cities one province over also like their chances. Brad Ferguson, chief executive officer of the Edmonton Economic Development Corp., said he would not be releasing details of the city's bid, but he trumpeted the collaborative nature of the city's pitch. "We are extremely proud of how this team approach differentiates Edmonton from our competitors," he said.


Calgary, meanwhile, has also staked its claim to woo Amazon north. The city's pitch involved an aggressive marketing campaign aimed directly at Amazon employees — whose votes the company says will have an impact on its decision.

Newspaper ads, banners and a YouTube video were all a part of the city's campaign to coax the tech titan.


Winnipeg stepped up to the plate, tailoring its sales pitch to Amazon's sense of frugality — which is one of the company's guiding principles. Touting the city's low cost of doing business and competitiveness, Winnipeg also put together a YouTube video in which ex-CFL player Obby Khan escorts Alexa, the company's artificially intelligent assistant, around the town, seeing the sights.

Check out Winnipeg's entire bid package here.

Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., took a slightly different tack, taking advantage of the city's location on the U.S. border to pitch its  case. Partnering with its neighbour across the St. Mary's River, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., the pitch includes "a robust description of the benefits that the Twin Saults provide businesses such as the competitive advantage of locating in two countries, while providing a natural balance of family, environment, growth and innovation," officials told the CBC.


Windsor, just across from Detroit, had a similar idea to make their case. Officially, the bid is centred in Detroit, but proximity to Windsor is a major factor in the plan. "Amazon will be able to draw employees from two countries rich in technology talent with diverse backgrounds while cementing it as the first major company in the world whose headquarters would literally share an international border," said Quicken billionaire Dan Gilbert, who's spearheading the bid.


Hamilton has thrown its hat into the ring, spending up to $500,000 on a bid that's guaranteed to at least have the best hashtag associated with it. The #Hamazon bid, as it's being called, is centred on the city's culture, innovation and other incentives.

Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger showed off the Amazon bid book and a video with the 'We are unstoppable' slogan at city hall Thursday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The city says it's already pleased with the process, and confident that the bid will pay off down the line with other things, even if the Amazon chooses to set up shop elsewhere.


Just up Highway 403, Toronto has stepped up with a bid to attract the company, and is one of the few to make the lion's share of the city's pitch public.

To bolster its chances, the bid has expanded the familiar Greater Toronto Area to what it calls the "Toronto Region," stretching from Kitchener-Waterloo to Durham Region in the east. And the bid includes details on up to 10 different sprawling sites in the area that might suit Amazon's needs.

Unlike some others, Toronto's bid says the city/region can make it worth the company's while without offering any tax incentives or other financial subsidies.

Check out Toronto's entire bid here.


With its large technology industry, Ottawa was tapped early as a likely candidate, and the city did indeed step up to the plate, partnering with nearby Gatineau to woo the company

Mayor Jim Watson made the news official earlier this week, although few details have been released, citing confidentiality agreements.


Montreal International CEO Hubert Bolduc made the city's pitch in person, going to Seattle to lay out their offerings.

"The whole team stepped up its efforts in the past few weeks to highlight all the know-how and creativity Greater Montreal has to offer," he said.

In addition to boasting about the city's tech talent and booming culture, bid organizers trumpeted the city's lower cost of living compared with other cities of similar size.


And at least one city in the Maritimes has stepped up, as Halifax confirmed that the city submitted a proposal. As with Hamilton, officials said the process has already proved beneficial regardless of the outcome, as it will help the city attract more companies to its growing technology hub.

"If it comes down to … the inducements that a province or a city can offer, financial only, then we're most likely not a player," Mayor Mike Savage said. "But if it comes down to a bigger picture, which includes a number of things, then I think Halifax has a very competitive case to make."