Calgary would be best Canadian destination for Amazon's HQ2, data cruncher says

Calgary is the No. 1 contender north of the border for Amazon to locate its second headquarters, according to a Vancouver data analyst who mimicked a New York Times study.

Vancouver data analyst says Calgary is top contender north of the border based on the criteria

The Amazon logo is displayed at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. Amazon has opened the search for a second headquarters, and a Vancouver data analyst says Calgary is the top Canadian city in the running. (Richard Drew/The Associated Press)

A Vancouver data analyst crunched some data about which Canadian city is the best candidate to win the bid for Amazon's expansion, and when all was said and done, Vancouver didn't come out on top.

Jens Von Bergmann, who is a data analyst for Mountain Math, took a look at a recent New York Times article, from the Upshot blog, which analyzed which American city would be the best fit for Amazon to locate its second headquarters. However, the analysis left out Canada — despite Amazon stating it's interested in a North American site.

"I reran the New York Times analysis for Canadian cities and what came up is that Calgary is the winner for Canadian cities," Von Bergmann said on The Calgary Eyeopener.

According to a Vancouver data analyst, Calgary has the best combination of high skilled labour, affordability, lifestyle, public transit and long-term labour growth among Canadian cities vying for Amazon's HQ2. (Ed Middleton/CBC)

The criteria included:

  • Metropolitan areas with at least a million people where job growth was strong, which cut the choices down to six: Montreal, Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Ottawa-Gatineau.
  • Factoring in strong job growth of at least five per cent over five years. That eliminates Montreal.
  • Large available labour pool, where "more than one in eight workers is in an industry related to tech, science or professional services." That eliminates Edmonton and Ottawa.
  • Quality of life. Calgary's relative affordability beats both Toronto and Vancouver.
  • Traffic and accessible public transit
  • Room to grow. 

"One of the big requirements for Amazon was that really they wanted a high quality of life, [and also] they wanted it easy for workers to get around in, and out of town, too," said Von Bergmann.

"Also, is there space for a headquarters?" he asked. "But also, and equally importantly, for all the new employees that this headquarters might attract — so up to 50,000 in total — is what Amazon is thinking about."

Vancouver data analyst Jens von Bergmann analyzed the criteria Amazon is looking at in choosing a home for HQ2. He discovered the top Canadian city is Calgary. (Jens von Bergmann)

Space to grow

"For all these cities, space often means not necessarily having space, but making space for these," he added. "And really, the question and the willingness to create space for these employees is something where I was looking at data of developments of making residential space and also how rents developed over time.

"Where Calgary stuck out in the country is it seemed in the boom years to actually make space for new employees," he said. "Currently Calgary is in a situation where office space would be available. It would be easier to accommodate the headquarters there.

"But also the willingness of Calgary to make space for a new, big employer like this seemed much higher than that of Toronto or Vancouver, where housing prices have skyrocketed," he said.

Von Bergmann is a big fan of Vancouver, but said that it wasn't only its unaffordability and lack of room to grow that might make it unappealing for Amazon.

Two headquarters, one fault line?

"I'm not sure they'd want to have two headquarters on the same earthquake fault line, in such close proximity," he said.

Von Bergmann's pro-Calgary sentiments were echoed by Calgary Economic Development's marketing and communications vice-president, Lisa Corcoran. She appeared on The Calgary Eyeopener to promote LoveYYC Community, a new community web page where Calgarians can contribute to the campaign to woo Amazon to the city.

Crowdsourcing a killer elevator pitch

Corcoran said the LoveYYC Community website is issuing a challenge to any Calgary booster interested in helping hone the city's sales pitch to Amazon.

"You get into an elevator. Jeff Bezos from Amazon is standing there. You have 60 seconds to pitch Calgary. What would you do?' she asked. "I think the pitch itself is really solid, but it's more the [question of] how are we delivering it?"

"Calgary is a headquarters town," she said. "We've got great talent. We've got an amazing lifestyle."

Locating north of the border

As to why Amazon might prefer a Canadian headquarters over an American one, Corcoran provided several reasons.

"One is we're a very welcoming and friendly nation," she said. "Two, we've got trade agreements into Europe and Asia that are separate from the North America Free Trade agreement.

"Canada itself offers a lot of advantages (over the United States)," she said. "Calgary offers a lot of advantages, especially when you look at what Amazon is looking for."

Now, she has some data to back it up.

With files from The Calgary Eyeopener