Amazon’s New Headquarters Will Be in This Surprising Location
We can now confidently say that the new Amazon HQ2 will be located in the Washington DC metropolitan area. It will be situated in Northern Virginia near the Maryland border, in a small community that hasn’t been mentioned by other experts or publications.
The location of Amazon’s new headquarters will be...
Loudoun County, Virginia - about 35 miles west of Washington DC. It will soon be served by the new Silver Line of the Washington Metro rapid transit system and has close access to Dulles International airport.
The DC area also has the advantage of being a home to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and the location of his Washington Post newspaper. There are a few mid-size cities in Loudoun County (the largest is Leesburg, with a population of 53,000), but Amazon HQ2 will located in an unincorporated part of the county:
Specifically, the site of the new Amazon HQ2 will be the unincorporated community of Oatlands, Virginia. Hang on, folks of Oatlands - you’re in for a wild ride.
The Five Reasons Why
1. It’s Not About Business
Much of the Amazon HQ2 Request For Proposal released a year ago was not about the usual site location specifics. Most corporate site selections look for existing resources which fit their needs, such as office buildings and warehouse space, transportation options, utilities cost, labor force and infrastructure.
But Amazon is unique in that it has deep pockets and local authorities will do everything possible to win the biggest economic prize in memory. With money and influence, Amazon can remake the local landscape to fit their needs. Bigger airport? Done. More roads and mass transit options? No problem. Unprecedented incentives? Of course.
The HQ2 RFP detailed a number of criteria which revealed the company’s desire for a “cultural community fit” and an “overall high quality of life”. Amazon is looking for a great place to live, and they have the resources to make it a great place for their business. While Oatlands, Virginia might not have the existing resources to make it a relocation target for other large businesses, it’s perfect for Amazon.
2. East Coast
Amazon is already headquartered in Seattle, in the upper corner of the United States and far from most of the population. As a global economic and cultural force, Amazon will want to span the country and the East Coast provides a gateway to Europe and beyond.
The Amazon shortlist of twenty finalist cities also provides clues to support their search for an East Coast location. Fourteen of their twenty HQ2 finalists are in the Eastern time zone, cutting out Chicago, Denver, Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Nashville.
3. The Political Factor
The issue of politics has been completely overlooked concerning Amazon’s HQ2, but is actually a major consideration in determining its location. In the last two years, the political landscape has been upended. Major corporations like Amazon find themselves used as targets to make political statements. Jeff Bezos has himself become a political lighting rod as owner of the liberal-leaning Washington Post newspaper.
Conservative state and local politicians in other areas may very well attack Amazon to appeal to their electorate, making business there risky, costly and unstable. Earlier this year, this happened in Georgia when legislators stripped out a $50 million tax exemption to punish Delta Airlines for cutting ties to the NRA.
Because of the current political climate, it is very important that Amazon locate its HQ2 in a politically friendly state. Some of these states with top twenty finalists include New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, Virginia, Colorado and California.
Amazon has grown to become a company that exerts a major impact on our country’s economy and culture. It wants its new HQ2 to be located in a region that both reflects this influence and will allow it become more of a presence among leaders and decision-makers.
Two areas stand out as centers of power and influence - New York and Washington DC.
5. “Near”, But Not “In” a Mega City
Amazon’s new headquarters needs to be located near a mega metro to provide the resources necessary to support a major new business location. The nearby mega city will provide a pool of educated workers and a major international airport. Loudoun County’s proximity to Washington DC is one of its biggest selling points.
There’s also the issue that Amazon does not want their HQ2 to dominate a region. Consider this. Those 50,000 new employees Amazon has said will be working at HQ2 will bring an additional 120,000 to 140,000 residents to the area in the form of family members, civil workers, and support businesses such as retail, healthcare, and services.
That means that the new HQ2 will be responsible for nearly 200,000 new residents, or a mid-size city like Salt Lake City. A new community of this magnitude needs a mega metro to provide resources for its development and growth. This requirement eliminates smaller contenders like Austin, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Indianapolis, and Columbus.
But while Amazon’s HQ2 will need to be near a mega city, it cannot be directly in a mega city. With the major influx of population and infrastructure, Amazon will need to avoid the downtown core and essentially create their own city on the outskirts of a major metropolitan area. There is no need to compete for expensive and crowded downtown space. Amazon can create their own bold vision starting with a blank canvas.
By locating outside the city, land is much cheaper and office buildings can be built and clustered as desired, rather than shoehorned into existing spaces. With a clean slate, architects and planners can create new communities and neighborhoods which incorporate smart homes and streets which are friendly to alternative transportation. With new homes comes the opportunity to use them as test beds for new Amazon products and services such as drones and autonomous vehicles, cashier-free stores, and in-home package delivery.
Amazon has proven itself to bold and creative, and building their own city in Oatlands, Virginia certainly fits that mold.
About Sperling's BestPlaces
Sperling's BestPlaces (www.bestplaces.net) is the nation's premier source for demographic and place data. Founded by author and researcher Bert Sperling over thirty years ago, BestPlaces helps over two million users a month make informed decisions about the best places for them to live, work, and retire. Bert's best selling books "Cities Ranked and Rated" and "Best Places to Raise Your Family" are published by John Wiley & Sons and he was tagged as the "The Guy Who Picks the Best Places" by the New York Times. Sperling's BestPlaces is responsible for more "Best Places" studies and research than any other single organization.