Halifax's Amazon dreams died this morning but it's not all bad news
'Damn it, I think we could have done it. But I didn't shed any tears over it. It's on to other projects'
Amazon drones will not be flying over the Halifax region performing same-day deliveries anytime soon. But Mayor Mike Savage says that wasn't necessarily the point of the city's bid to house the retail giant's coveted second headquarters.
"Would we like to be shortlisted? Yes, but realistically it was always a bit of a long shot and that's why we made sure that the main benefit of this was not just Amazon but bidding on other opportunities as well," said Savage.
Some of those opportunities, said Savage, include being on Amazon's radar for future investments and showing that Halifax is a place that has an appetite for innovation and technology.
"We're seeing a lot of things in Halifax we haven't seen before: the convention centre, the Discovery Centre, the library's only a few years old," he said.
"But what really is cool is that we're seeing companies set up here that most of them didn't exist a couple of years ago and they're hiring all kinds of bright, young people who go to our schools and want to live in our city and that's a great thing."
On Thursday, Halifax learned it was not among the 20 cities shortlisted. Toronto is the only Canadian contender still in the race.
In total, Amazon received 238 applications, about a dozen of which were from Canadian cities.
Savage said he didn't have a figure on how much the city spent on its bid but called it a "pittance" compared to what other cities have said they've spent on their respective bids.
He said most of the work on the pitch was done "after hours," mostly by the city's economic development organization, the Halifax Partnership.
Savage said when you see some cities "spending big gobs of money" that didn't make it, Halifax was "wise" to do what it did.
Winning the bid may not be all it's cracked up to be.
After Amazon set up base in Seattle in 1994, the city saw benefits but there were costs associated with sharing a city with one of the largest retailers in the world.
Housing costs skyrocketed and traffic congestion increased. But Savage said in spite of any potential downsides, Halifax would have benefited from having an Amazon location here.
"We wanted the bid, so I'm not going to turn around now when we didn't get it and say, 'I'm glad we didn't.' I wanted it," said Savage.
"Damn it, I think we could have done it. But I didn't shed any tears over it. It's on to other projects and I think it's going to help us win other things."
In its request for proposals, Amazon said it was searching for metropolitan areas with more than one million people, saying it would spend $5 billion US to build the new headquarters for as many as 50,000 employees.
Other criteria the company said it wants are to be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit and be able to expand that headquarters to more than 740,000 square metres in the next decade.
Halifax's population, including its surrounding region, is about 425,000.
Savage said he wishes Toronto luck in its bid.