As 20 cities eagerly await signals from Amazon Inc., fresh analysis by a real estate and tourism consultant has both good and bad news for Toronto’s hopes of landing the tech giant’s second headquarters.
Resonance, with offices in Vancouver and New York, used its data on cities and Amazon’s “request for proposal” to rank which of the 20 shortlisted cities best meet the electronic retailing giant’s criteria for a new hub with up to 50,000 employees and billions of dollars of potential investments.
Amazon’s priorities, outlined in a bidding process reminiscent of those for Olympics hosting rights, include proffered economic incentives and the depth of tech talent. But the firm also values less traditional factors including cultural diversity and recreational opportunities for those workers.
Resonance was not surprised that its analysis pegged New York City as best hitting most of Amazon’s marks. The company was surprised that Toronto, the only shortlisted Canadian city, nabbed the number two spot in the study, ahead of Chicago, Northern Virginia and Los Angeles.
While Toronto is seen as Canada’s powerhouse, says Chris Fair, Resonance’s Calgary-raised president, “in the North American context I think most Canadians, and certainly Americans, would put Toronto somewhere down the list behind cities like Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas and L.A.
“That’s why it surprised us to see Toronto come out at number two because we don’t usually think about Toronto as being second only to New York.”
He credits Toronto’s edge on “experiential” quality-of-life factors including nightlife, parks, safety, culture and pro sports.
The bad news for Toronto is that, when Fair factored in other considerations, including the city not offering tax breaks and Amazon planning a major expansion of its other Canadian office, in Vancouver, Toronto fell off the leader board. New York also fell down the list because of its scarcity of suitable real estate.
Resonance is predicting Chicago, Northern Virginia, and L.A. as the most likely sites for Amazon’s “HQ2”, giving Boston an outside shot.