Mayors disappointed to be left off Amazon's short list

The mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau said they were disappointed to learn the National Capital Region has been left off Amazon's short list to host the company's new headquarters, and the 50,000 new jobs that could come with it.

uOttawa prof says short-term disruption would have come before longer-term benefits

Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin, left, and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, right, congratulated Toronto for making Amazon's short list Thursday. (CBC)

The mayors of Ottawa and Gatineau say they're disappointed to learn the National Capital Region has been left off Amazon's short list to host the company's new headquarters, and the 50,000 new jobs that could come with it.

On the bright side, the mayors said they received positive feedback from Amazon, and will continue to work with the e-commerce giant on future endeavours. 

"We are proud of the way our two cities and the community came together to put forward a competitive bid that showcased the best that the National Capital Region has to offer," Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin said Thursday in a joint news release.

Despite losing out on the high-stakes bid, the mayors said collaborating on the bid was a positive move for both cities, and will draw the attention of other employers to the region.

"This strengthened regional collaboration is a legacy of our efforts, one that will help us grow our local economy and attract jobs together in the coming years."

Watson and Pedneaud-Jobin congratulated Toronto for making the short list, noting that if the Ontario capital is selected there will likely be "significant economic spinoffs for the Ottawa-Gatineau region."

Invest Ottawa, the city's economic development agency, estimates the total cost of the city's Amazon bid was $100,000, including staff time and in-kind services from the city and other partners. 

Silver lining?

Although there would have been some long-term benefits had Ottawa ultimately been chosen, it would have brought some short-term disruption, said one expert.

Many workers for its new headquarters would likely have come from outside Ottawa, said Tyler Chamberlin, a business professor with the University of Ottawa.

"We'd start to look like Fort McMurray [Alta.], we'd end up with all sorts of portable housing and whatnot just to try to house these people in the short term,' Chamberlin said on CBC's Ottawa Morning on Friday.

Amazon could have also sucked up local talent from parts of Ottawa's tech sector, depending on what the focus of the new headquarters would be, Chamberlin said.

We'd end up with all kinds of portable housing.- Tyler Chamberlain, uOttawa

"We have a tech community, but we have talent in certain areas," he said.

"We'd have had to get more details [from Amazon]."

Ottawa's size is one reason he said the city didn't make the list, but the biggest dealbreaker was money.

Chamberlin believes other cities were able to offer billions of dollars in incentives to attract Amazon.

"We did a great job of smiling and offering to be really pleasant and a lovely place to live, but when it comes down to it, the offer of billions of dollars of support was more persuasive."

After fielding 238 applications that included more than 10 Canadian locations, Amazon selected 20 cities for its short list, list, released Thursday.

Toronto is the only Canadian city to make the cut. The American finalists include New York and Los Angeles. 

Amazon will be giving the 20 cities further consideration, and is expecting to make its final decision later this year.

With files from CBC's Ottawa Morning