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Amazon expected to announce NYC and Northern Virginia as new headquarters (wsj.com)
140 points by uptown on Nov 13, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 208 comments

Did the world’s smartest company really need 13 months, and applications from 238 cities, to reach the striking conclusion that it should invest in New York and D.C.? The former is America’s heart of capital, and the latter is America’s literal capital, where Jeff Bezos, chief executive of Amazon, already owns a house and a newspaper.


Then I guess you won a lot of money betting that these would be the two locations. If not you missed out. Let me know who is going to win the Super Bowl!

Because that made them receive offers and tax cuts from city governments.

I feel this choice is a mistake for the company long term, they're putting resources into two very hot housing and real estate markets, that have no real draw (in my opinion) for technical employees. Hew York is high tax (compared to Washington), unpleasant weather, overall high costs, and has a housing shortage, Washington DC, once described has having "Southern Efficiency, and Northern Charm" has similar issues of an overheated housing market, and overall high costs, given the choice of a coequal salary in Seattle, DC, or NYC, I'd pick Seattle - as much as I hate Seattle.

NYC has some advantages for access to capital markets - but Amazon seemingly has no shortage of capital, DC, access to policymakers - but I see no real strategic advantages here.

If I were picking, I would have picked Atlanta and Detroit, or two other lower cost large cities with convenient air travel to Seattle.

NYC has a lot of developers, more than the valley. It's already a 'draw' of sorts, this is an advantage.

"DC, access to policymakers - but I see no real strategic advantages here."

Amazon is going to become the #1 IT vendor of choice for the biggest government of the world AND reach their tentacles deep into the political arena for all sorts of other benefits.

Military, FBI, CIA, Gov, Fannie/Freddie. All huge.

Also - every bank is becoming a 'tech company' and Amazon will provide them with their infrastructure.

These silly New Yorkers, with no sense of anything outside Manhattan.

Put aside government -- which is enormous -- and DC has:

- A long Internet history. MAE-East. UUNet. AOL. Equinix. Network Solutions. Microstrategy.

- Let's not discuss the one of the single largest tech regions in the country: the Dulles Technology Corridor. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dulles_Technology_Corridor

- A huge Big Data industry fed by (besides government) stuff like DC's ginormous genomics and bioinformatics industries, financial regulation groups, you name it. FINRA is in DC. So is Capital One.

- Amazon Web Services is already in DC.

- The three highest income counties in the country.

The first Apple Store was also in Tyson's Corner in Northern Virgina

This Quora response uses US Bureau of Labor Statistics to show there are 92,350 programmers in the whole SF Bay area, compared to 62,530 programmers in the entire NYC municipal area.

So about 50% more in the Bay.


You forgot to adjust for the standard NYC ego inflation. Each NYC developer is worth 2x what any other developer is worth so NYC would win with 125k developers.

This guy gets it.

WNYC had a segment about this last week and claimed that there are 110k tech workers in the NYC area.

"Tech workers" != programmers.

In fact, if there are only 110k tech workers, I doubt there are 92,350 actual programmers in NYC. They are counting all Product Managers, designers, beta testers, etc, as well as probably sales and administrative assistants in outfits like Google.

"NYC has a lot of developers, more than the valley" - do you have a source for that? Seems highly unlikely. My quick googling suggests silicon valley has 2x-5x more engineers than NYC.

Oh - I'm sorry - I was looking at job openings in a specific software field and there were way more openings in NYC - I confused that with devs.

A summary glance indicates that the Valley and SF may be roughly on par with NYC but that the Bay Area has more than NYC, I stand corrected - though there seems to be scant hard data as it's difficult to define exactly what a developer is ...

Living in NY for over a decade and visiting the Bay area often, I have to agree. I'd say the difference is even bigger if you look at Silicon Valley as a whole. I wouldn't be surprised if the ratio was more like 10:1.

10:1 seems a bit too much, but yeah, I'm not sure where GP got the idea that NYC has more engineers than SFBay.

NYC was not historically focused on engineering or tech. Media, advertising, and of course - finance, banking, and investment banking.

Pure engineering or software work? Not very much.

I agree that dc makes sense for amazon because of us govt use of the cloud. But I am surprised to hear that nyc has that many developers, more than SF? There are more people in nyc by far, but more advanced software engineers?

Of course there are many advanced software programmers for the financial industries and other major intl companies in nyc. I'm not in the bay area, I'm in a secondary 'leading software city'. Is there a citation for this?

Amazon is the new IBM

Sheesh, get with the agreed upon narrative. Microsoft was the new IBM, but then they got rescued by their new ceo Nadella. Then it was Oracle, but well hell, Oracle is still the new ibm. Google is trying hard to be the new ibm but they aren't quite there yet.

For some weird reason (in my experience) Amazon employees all seem to want to move to NYC. Like, constantly. Go on Blind and they'll talk about it all day with dubious reasoning.

I don't get it myself (I had a few NYC offers but chose Amazon in Boston instead), but NYC has become "the place" elite for software-focused undergrads these days. Everyone wants to get into FB/Instagram NY or Google NYC.

I was one of those people. I moved to NYC in May. In a lot of adult sports leagues I'm meeting a surprisingly high number of developers who moved from the Bay Area to NYC. All for similar reasons. Its way more fun to spend your 20s in NY than it is in SF. Within my social circle, many more are planning on moving from SF to NY. This might be anecdata, but Google and Amazon might have recruiting data about candidates' location preferences.

“Fun” must be a bizarre elite perspective I’ve never understood either. The same stuff is available in Seattle as it is in NYC or Boston, just with an order of magnitude more people. Whenever I ask people about this they just talk about nightlife or something that I can’t relate to at all.

I don’t know, maybe it’s because I didn’t hobnob with the well connected in college or “have fun” in college either.

In a large American city like Boston, Seattle, or even Chicago, I have access to a nice night life, good food, and plenty of nice museums. They're all great cities. When you consider them regionally.

In an internationally large city like NYC or Tokyo, I have all the access to local places that compete on the city and regional level, but with way more choices in that regard. But on top of that I have places that are competing internationally, as well as a large selection of the best other cities have to offer since there are so many people that move there from other places.

Its hard to get a sense for how amazingly convenient and awesome that is if you visit for a weekend or a week and haven't actually lived in a place like that.

Just going with food, maybe if you're ticking off a box that Seattle has a good ramen place you like somewhere in the city and NYC has one place you found that is as good. But theres a good chance there will be multiple places as good or better scattered all over the city in NYC vs the couple good places you like in Seattle.

Is there a new food trend somewhere else in the world? Its going to land pretty soon in Tokyo and if its more than just a flash trend you'll have a number of places competing that will be as good or even better soon enough. When I'm in Tokyo so long as I do a cursory look at the reviews, I know I'm going to get something good without having to go out my way, since the rents tend to put mediocre places out of business pretty fast unless they have a special circumstance surrounding them. If I am making a special trip for a restaurant in NYC, there's a really good chance I am getting something that can be considered some of the best in the world.

Dating is another big reason. SF & Seattle is gender imbalanced in a bad way for hetrosexual men in their 20s and 30s, NYC is the opposite.

Seattle is a tech monoculture. Chances are, all your friends will be working in Tech. By comparison, NYC is much more diverse professionally. If you have esoteric hobbies, orders of magnitude matter.

As someone who grew up in NYC, has lived in LA, SF and now Seattle. Seattle absolutely does not have the same sorts of things NYC has.

The mega cities have far more going on in terms of diversity of options on any given night than smaller ones do. Additionally, there are far more ethnic groups represented in these mega regions as well.

The Pacific Northwest absolutely has it's perks, but it's not nearly as thrilling as NYC or LA.

What makes you think its elitist?

In my experience, only the elites (the HYPSM+ types) are able to have "fun" like this because they didn't have anything to prove. When I was in undergrad I worked and studied (and got the same or less than they did for it in the end).

It’s not that hard to imagine why someone would want to move from a mid-size tech city where you are often hated for where you work, to NYC.

People in Seattle don't hate amazon employees. I think engineers in Seattle feel sorry for them a little bit - it used to be a thing that no one knew anyone who had worked there more than 2 years (when the initial hire on bonus to cover the lower salary ran out and ended the clawbacks). Seattle has its pluses and minuses but it's got some serious differences than nyc.

Have you been into a Fred Meyer or QFC wearing Amazon branded attire? There are many people who would gleefully help kill Amazon in Seattle, especially those who are seeing their jobs ripped away from them and replaced with non-unionized work for lower pay in an abusive environment.

One of the great parts of being in NYC is having friends who aren’t “in tech”. Tech is an industry here, and there’s a massive network where you’re not tying yourself to one company though your move, but it doesn’t define the culture of the city.

I don't think this can be understated. My friends and I don't even TALK about tech because not all of my friends are in tech. I have friends that are in completely different industries, like media, theater, urban planning, education, finance, journalism, etc. You meet people who are making it as artists or going for their PhD. There's a vibrant Meetup scene. And if you live near a friend, you can literally just walk to their apartment and hang out.

I always thought that was such a strange reason. Never really got the obsession with having friends in other industries, which isn’t that hard to have in Seattle or Boston or Raleigh either.

You end up chewing on ideas you never would have considered, learning about industries you don't work in, and going places you never would have thought to go. It adds a nice splash of unexpectedness that life wouldn't have otherwise.

NYC is more attractive than it used to be, to be fair. But, especially the parts of NYC young tech workers are actually interested in is still urbanization on steroids. I can tolerate and even revel in it for a week or so but it takes a lot of adjusting from most places, even other large cities.

NYC is very urban, but it isn't even the largest or most dense city in North America.

I think you just have a bias against heavy urban areas. Lots of people are comfortable living in large dense cities. Hundreds of millions, if not more, live in cities with similar levels of urbanization as NYC.

To be fair, NYC density statistics are skewed by Staten Island, which is large, suburban (by NYC metro region standards) in development patterns, and peripheral to the city in many ways. If you stick to the other four boroughs, my understanding is that it’s far and away the densest in the hemisphere.

I think you're misinterpreting me. I'm literally sitting in NYC at the moment. I enjoy visiting it. I've lived here (briefly). I also travel throughout the US and elsewhere. I don't know how anyone else could seriously suggest that the sheer volume of blaring horns and crush of humanity is not at least somewhat unique in North America.

In my experience, Chicago comes closest.

LA is quite different.

I totally appreciate people are comfortable living in cities like this. I probably wouldn't be. But, if you are, more power to you. (Personally I live in the country.)

It's the second largest and the second densest behind Mexico City. Somehow I don't think Mexico City was in the running for HQ2.

Mexico City density: 6,000/km2 New York City density: 11,000/km2


NYC is a very fun place to live. Recent grads who are making a good income have every reason to want to live there.

New York is "the place" for just about every industry.

Banking, ads, modeling. Not tech. No Fry’s.

They have Microcenter and B&H, what more could you need?

Also 269 Canal Street. Not just another Chinatown jewelry shop.


I hope they're still there, that link is a decade old. Once I went there and bought a cable or adapter (I forget) - the guy tested it with a multimeter before selling it to me to confirm it worked. Loved that.

Once went to a Chinatown repair shop for drive mounting rails and screws. Guy shrugged and gave 'em to me free.

> I feel this choice is a mistake for the company long term, they're putting resources into two very hot housing and real estate markets, that have no real draw (in my opinion) for technical employees.

The goal was never to optimize for employee housing or quality of life. The goal was to get concessions from already urban areas where 25000 engineers might want to live.

>If I were picking, I would have picked Atlanta and Detroit

Atlanta and Detroit have arguably lesser draw than NYC or DC.

I'd suspect the choice of NYC has more to do with the available talent pool there. At this moment, with the scarcity of available engineering talent and the scale at which Amazon needs it, there might not be a city outside of SF that better fits their needs.

If available talent pool were the #1 determinant, they'd be opening up in the Bay Area.

New York in particular is a very expensive talent pool with a lot of competition. Given Amazon's extremely strong brand, it's reasonable to think that they could benefit by opening almost anywhere else and then drawing talent in. Not only would those people get a lot more for their money, but Amazon would have relatively little competition, reducing turnover and wage inflation.

>unpleasant weather

I mean I've visited both Austin and San Francisco so I understand the appeal of temperate climates but plenty of people not only tolerate but enjoy less temperate climates, myself included

nyc is a terrible place to live for a lot of people. i personally can not stand it. dirty city, terrible weather, and rude people.

Can you give me an example of the rudeness? I have visited New York city regulator from the last 35 years. I completely agree with the dirty part, and I suppose I agree with the weather part, but I have found that the people surprisingly open and hopeful for my entire life.

Obviously nowhere is going to be ideal for everyone. But judging by the number of people living in NYC, plenty are very happy with it.

The "rude" thing seems like more of a meme than a reality. I find New Yorkers to be remarkably pleasant, much more so than the grumps in my Midwestern hometown where everybody has a chip on their shoulder and basically nobody is excited to be there.

The D.C. Metro area has pretty much the most highly educated workforce in the country and something like half of the top-25 highest income counties in the U.S. IIR, the D.C. Metro is something like 3rd or 4th in the country for total software engineers after SV, NYC and maybe Seattle and is fed by "nearby" Virginia Tech, CMU, UMD, Johns Hopkins, UVA, NCState, and GMU (among others) which are all highly ranked CS and CE schools.

Silicon Valley East is basically the 30 mile stretch from D.C. to Dulles and it's basically an unbroken chain of tech and engineering companies, mostly fed contractors, but chock full of people clawing at the walls to work for non-fed tech businesses.

D.C.'s main issues are traffic and absolutely abysmal weather. But other than that it's an absolute no-brainer of a location even if you subtract all the political co-location and lobbying factors.

NYC makes sense for different, but some similar reasons...it's also chock full of people wanting to work for tech companies that aren't fintech and LIC has long been an underdeveloped part of the city that's just a bridge hop away from basically everything you'd ever want in Manhattan. If you can stomach living 20-30 minutes east, housing prices become much more affordable even if the inventory is uninspiring.

New York is literally the greatest city in the history of world civilization and the planetary capital of finance, media, business, fashion and culture. It’s easily the largest city in the country, and iconic globally.

But you’re finding it hard to understand why people might want to live here?

I’d post more but my New York life is veritable cornucopia of novel and enriching experiences and I’d better get back to it. Enjoy your stripmalls.

This is both arrogant and ignorant at the same time. New York, I'm sure, is a great city, but it is not the end all be all of everything. The next time you sit down at one of your fancy Manhattan restaurants I would encourage you to humbly thank the people from where there are "stripmalls" who made it and most other things in NYC possible. Food, the literal materials for the buildings, the energy renewable or otherwise, basically all the support resources and services that make cities like NYC even possible come from the parts of the world you seem to hold in contempt. No wonder middle America hates the "coastal elites" with an attitude like this.

Also the food in NYC is fine but not head and shoulders above other cities. Especially when you factor in the bill.

I think that food, on average, in NYC is worse than average.

There is so much foot traffic in the city that mediocre and bad restaurants can survive, even with high rents.

Don't get me wrong, NYC has some amazing food, but my experience has been pretty bad with most restaurants.

Saying things like, "Enjoy your stripmalls", actually hurts your argument by indicating a lot of insecurity.

No, it might be lived experience. I've been to NYC, I live in the bay area. The south bay is surprisingly run down and boring for what it is, it's redeeming qualities being tech, the weather and some nearby nature. The stripmalls exist there and it's a bit strange how shabby everything is compared to the rent. SF is nicer and worse in someways than san jose, and NYC is definitely better from a livability and interesting-ness perspective.

Even LA has more culture :p

The west has a lot of strip malls.

So does the state of New York.

New York doesn’t put Michelin star restaurants in strip malls.

No, but it does put them in plenty of of places that are just as unprestigious. As do plenty of other of cities.

Not all starred chefs are about chasing the high rent look or fine dining aesthetic. You don't have to be 11MP to get a star, or even three. Ko has two and is down an alley!

Assuming a restaurant can even survive in the first place to earn that star.


Show me a single Michelin Star restaurant in the entire United States located in a strip mall. And besides, if they put Michelin Star restaurants in strip malls, they probably wouldn't be the marker of not much going on that they currently are.

One of the best restaurants in Silicon Valley, Alexander’s in Cupertino is effectively in a strip mall next to a Target and it’s far better than most of the good restaurants in “character-filled” San Francisco locations.

It’s so snobby and inaccurate to suggest a strip mall restaurant is “bad.” With the economics of restaurants, a strip mall location is often a great idea.

There are only Michelin guides for NYC, Chicago, San Francisco & DC.

You’d have a huge amount of Michelin stars in strip malls if LA even had the opportunity.

Even with that built in bias there are of course stars in strip malls.

There is a bib gourmand in a strip mall less than 3 blocks from where I sit.

It didn't even occur to you to simply Google "michelin star" "strip mall"?

Of course there are starred restuarants in strip malls.

I searched Michelin Star restaurants in the US and looked through them and couldn't find any, then posed the challenge. So, yeah, no I didn't actually Google that and I should have.

There's even a three-star in a strip mall if you consider all of Los Gatos a strip mall. (Hey-o!)

It's really quite jarring just how many of them there are. sure the east has strip malls, but they just don't seem to take up that much space.

So does Queens.

> "greatest city in the history of world civilization"

Woah, hold on your horses. There are plenty of contestants there. Rome. Tenochtitlan. Cairo. Babylon. Etc.

Also London, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong for some modern contenders. Paris is a close runner up.

I'd go into a long drawn out reply, but I'd rather relax on my deck with a cup of coffee in a bathrobe and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. Enjoy being crammed into a loud, noxious sea of concrete and steel with 20 million other people.

I don't think people get you are being sarcastic.


>New York is literally the greatest city in the history of world civilization and the planetary capital of finance, media, business, fashion and culture. It’s easily the largest city in the country, and iconic globally.

So, I mean, I generally agree with your point, and if you said the American, or maybe even Western, I might agree with you completely. But, uh, there's some pretty amazing cities out there. There's not much I like better in NYC to Tokyo, for example. And hell, with how much better the Tokyo metro and JR lines are than the NYC subway system, you can live cheaper and still get into the heart of the city faster.

> New York is literally the greatest city in the history of world civilization


I don't know why the person you're replying to thinks their viewpoint is representative of a wide swath of people?

I love NYC, if I was looking for a job this would be a draw for me.

The person you're talking to didn't say they were having trouble understanding "why people might want to live" there. They said they thought it was a bad choice on Amazon's part for cogent reasons, all of which you ignore in this reply.

Someone (I forget who) once said that New York’s real specialty is convincing twentysomethings that it is the center of the universe.

It certainly seemed that way to me for a long time.

that partially explains why young people that grow up in NYC don't have driver's licences.

It's the greatest city, currently, in the USA for sure. In the history of the world, that's impossible to say.

Amsterdam is pretty dope for example.

Yeah, it is greater than Ancient Rome, with a richer history than Paris, and more people than Tokyo

haha greatest city in the history of the world? You obviously don't get out much at all.

This has to be a parody..

Lol someone’s defensive. I believe this is called being insecure.

> that have no real draw (in my opinion) for technical employees

3rd in tech patents after San Francisco and San Jose. 2nd or 3rd in total tech jobs after San Francisco and Seattle. This comment seems like its coming from some one who doesn't know a thing about NYC Tech scene.

> unpleasant weather,

8.6 Million people like here and lot of people prefer 4 season cycle.

I feel like these are the safest choices. DC is the capital; NYC is the unofficial capital - not at all with "no real draw." If you want to live in a city, there's no comparison with New York anywhere else in the country.

>> "Southern Efficiency, and Northern Charm"

and don't forget "Amazon Humidity" and "Mexico City Traffic"

>Atlanta and Detroit, or two other lower cost large cities with convenient air travel to Seattle...


I think planners at Amazon were thinking more long term. I'm thinking that convenient and multi-modal access to the Europe-Africa side of the world played a big part here. East coast and west coast HQ's just make sense for a global behemoth like Amazon.

> Washington DC, once described has having "Southern Efficiency, and Northern Charm"

This is so great.

Generally credited to John F. Kennedy, but he prefaced it with "somebody said" (original source unknown).


Are you sure, this sounds reversed - Northern efficiency, and Southern Charm?

No, the implication is that everyone in DC is an asshole with the slow pace of folks in the south.

got it :)

Implying that these "HQs" are going to be more than 10k employees. Both cities can easily absorb another few thousand highly paid engineers/business/lobbyists.


For some quality of life means being able to get a drink at 3AM. For others - house with a backyard.

Good point. Right now it's nearly impractical to have a family in the Bay area. I'd personally like to see a lot of improvement on the supply side in the form of high-density housing in urban centers.

You can literally have a house with a backyard and a less than 1 hour commute from Manhattan.

2h of commute per day to get a backyard maybe good life quality for some. But not for everyone.

An hour is too much. Ain't nobody got time for one hour commuting each way.

I agree. An hour is considered a slightly above average commute in the Bay Area. However in NYC its considered way above average. When I was interviewing there, I was low key shocked that the interviewers considered 30 minutes to be a 'long' commute. Thats when I knew I was in the right place. Density + transit is the way to go.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people commute more than an hour into Manhattan every day.

Just about everyone taking the LIRR or Metro North is commuting at least an hour and if they say they aren't, they're kidding themselves.

I feel you, man. My commute is 25 min door to door and most of that is walking. That’s about the limit I’d accept.

NYC is a very mixed bag on quality of life. It depends on what your priorities are.

In New York, at least, this is going to be quite a mess. Many within the city - politicians included - are against it. But Cuomo, the governor of the state, is all in, and is planning to remove the city council from the decision:


As if it needed to be said, there are other cities that would be a lot more receptive, and would benefit a lot more. Even just over the river in New Jersey would be an improvement. Just go there.

I'm normally not in favor of side stepping the processes in place, but I can guarantee you that if the community board was allowed to inject themselves into this process, you would be unlikely to see Amazon in NYC in 2050, let alone this decade. Nimbyism would never let this kind of thing progress.

City council != community boards. I agree with you about community boards, but to sidestep the city entirely feels wrong.

I agree with Scott Galloway who has both predicted the outcome and has called this a sham 'contest.' Galloway said that Bezos was always going to pick one of the coastal cities where he has a second/third home. By doing this 'contest' Amazon was able to get cities to compete with each other to provide tax incentives to Amazon and was also able to get valuable private information on the cities that Amazon can use in their business strategy. Galloway told cities not to participate.

Whoa. Bezos indeed has homes in NYC and Washington DC. (As well as Seattle, Beverly Hills, and a ranch in Texas. [1])

I can't find it now, but years ago The Economist ran an article about a study that said a key factor in corporate headquarter moves was where the CEO lives. Disappointing to see it play out like that on such a grand scale, and after such a pretense of a nationwide search. Yet another thing that convinces me I'd never want to work at Amazon.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/jeff-bezos-owns-five-massive...

Doubt it was a factor with Bezos. The guy is rich enough to live anywhere, and has houses everywhere, as you also observed.

Somehow the office didn't land in Beverly Hills or the Texas ranch.

I expect the fact that he already has homes in NYC and DC is related to the fact they are in fact important locations for his business.

Most CEOs are rich enough to move. But they are also powerful enough to get the company to move to a location more convenient or appealing to them.

Sure, but he has lived in Seattle for a long time, what makes you think he wants to move to NYC?

The office in NYC is going to be nothing more than a big satellite office compared to the huge HQ in Seattle, so it's not like he's actually moving Amazon's HQ and himself to NYC. In fact I doubt he'd spend that much time there. Given his duties, he'll probably be in Seattle most of the time.

Also, I very much doubt the office in DC is there because Bezos is just dying to spend more time in DC ;-)

I never said he wanted to move. And I agree he'll probably spend less time at the other offices. But that still doesn't mean it's a pure coincidence that the two new offices are exactly in locations which he liked enough to buy homes.

If the guy really didn't like DC, I'm thinking he wouldn't have bought a $23m home there. As you say, he's rich enough he can do what he wants.

The point isn't that he can't afford houses anywhere (obviously he can), it's that the places he already owns houses in are places he enjoys spending his time in. So he'd want to locate additional offices in those places. He's probably not all that interested in spending time in, e.g., Dallas.

It seems like I'm the resident Dallas apologist on these Amazon pieces, but Bezos is no stranger to Dallas. He has spoken fondly of Dallas many a time, just had the honor of speaking at SMU's Business Conference and offered personal anecdotes of why he likes Dallas, and, as Dallas Morning News has reported by tracking his flight records, been to Dallas many a time this year alone.

Sure, maybe he doesn't own property in Dallas, but it also seems like it's more of a place he'd like to spend time in over Austin, or Atlanta, or Pittsburgh, or a whole bunch of other cities.

The fact that Amazon was in late stage talks with Dallas also makes me think Dallas will be one of the cities to get "other major Amazon facilities as well" as this WSJ article mentions.

Not to be "that guy", but I really do wonder whether there even were any serious "late stage" talks with any of these other cities?

NYC is so obviously superior to every other location that you have to wonder whether there was any serious chance of anyone else actually getting the HQ2 at all? I mean, sure, DC can play both the government card, and the "Bezos loves us" card. But everyone else has no credible argument to put forth that would entice Amazon to abandon the opportunity that is NYC.

(In the end, even DC didn't have a good enough argument. After all, they still kept half the jobs in NYC.)

Texas has taxes a lot lower than NYC. Dallas is far cheaper to live in, too.

That's quite a difference. Even if Amazon gets tax breaks, its employees will not.

Dallas vs NYC is lowest vs highest income taxes in the nation.

It's not about taxes though. That's what so many people don't understand.

If you had a global behemoth of a company, and you were already based on the West Coast, then your links to Asia would be just about as good as they could be without relocating out of the US.

But what if you wanted to go for a whole "sun never sets on the British Empire" thing? Then you would need better links from the Europe-Africa side of the world to your HQ. Assuming you don't want to relocate out of the US, that means the Eastern seaboard. That's just geography. Which place on the eastern seaboard has the best multi-modal transport links to the rest of the US and Europe-Africa? NYC. For logistics, by air, land, and sea, you can't beat NYC. They've just invested way too much into that stuff for anyone else to beat them at it. (Probably did so over time using those high taxes you talked about.)

Add in the fact that NYC has access to an enormous community of technology experts, and the fact that it has plentiful high powered jobs in other industries, and the choice really is a no-brainer.

Dallas, is just not there yet, to be perfectly frank. The only city in Texas that is even working towards being a rival to NYC is Houston. And while they've made admirable progress, with ports, metro trains, and airports, they've still got quite a ways to go. (For instance, they're metro is building out nicely, but it still doesn't connect to either of their airports yet. Nor does it connect to their port.)

Other cities can compete with the coastal elites, but we have to sober up as to what we need to do in order to actually be competitive. Lowering taxes might be part of it, but it's not going to make any of the knowledge behemoths leave the coastal elite cities.

Would you leave your home for another home in a neighborhood with worse schools and worse transport just because it was cheaper?

I don’t think Dallas is better than NYC in well, any regard except cost of living (which isn’t a huge draw in and of itself for the already wealthy), and I love Dallas.

I do think Dallas has so much potential though, and I think if you would look a little you would see the overwhelming number of similarities between Dallas and Seattle, both politically, economically, socially, and even traffic/transport-wise.

I just hoped, maybe naively, Amazon would want to move somewhere where it could harness that potential and help shape the city rather than merely rely on a city’s already established resources.

Dallas will continue growing without Amazon, just as Seattle would have, but I can’t say I’m not disappointed for my hometown.

Haha, you don't have to convince me that NYC is a good choice for Amazon.

I was just pointing out that a place like Dallas does have some benefits over NYC.

s/Dallas/Detroit/ then.

I think it’s where he wants to spend time

“Somehow” is probably related to how Texas or Beverly Hills wouldn’t be very effectively strategic.

You may be referring to William Whyte’s book City. It describes how reducing a CEO’s commute is one of the major factors in the corporate relocations he studied[1].

Joel Spolsky also wrote about this 15 years ago:

> “My company, Fog Creek Software, is relocating. There’s nothing wrong with the brownstone we’re in, it’s just a tiringly long commute. Basically, we’re moving because of William Whyte‘s rule: virtually all corporate relocations involve a move to a location which is closer to the CEO’s home than the old location. Whyte discovered this principle after an extensive study of Fortune 500 companies that left New York City for the suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s. They always had big, complicated Relocation Committees which carefully studied all the options and chose, coincidentally I’m sure, to move to within half a mile of the CEO’s home in Danbury, Connecticut. Whyte also showed that these companies all tanked after the relocation. With, I believe, but one exception, companies that left New York City to be closer to the CEO’s house in Connecticut or Westchester had dismal stock performance compared to companies that stayed in Manhattan.”[2]


2- https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2003/03/28/finding-an-office-...

Exactly it. Thanks!

I think it may have been a factor with NoVA. But the logical place for HQ2 was always NYC. There was a large confluence of factors, but the two most important being logistics and access to a super-sized community of technology experts. (No other city can really match NYC's transport links, by air, land, or sea. So if you were going for the whole "sun never sets on the British Empire" thing, then it would almost have to be NYC.)

NoVA is a little more perplexing? I think it may have been, as you said, DC is Bezos' home. And it's DC, so there's a lot of government type stuff there. I don't know? Maybe Bezos is the reason HQ2 was split into HQ2A and HQ2B? Because if you have NYC, I'm not sure why you need anyplace else?

us-east-1 is the largest AWS region by far, and is located in northern VA. There are tons of employees already located nearby for this reason alone, among other AWS work that's already happening.

Additionally, public sector sales is a huge part of the business, and you need people in DC/VA in order to make that happen.

I doubt building a full HQ2 in Nova is possible, but a 40,000/10,000 split between the two places makes a ton of sense.

Which is exactly what professional sports teams do often even if they've been somewhere a while and have no intention of leaving.

San Diego was one of the only ones to call that bluff in recent history.

Also the Patriots.

Can you point us to some links (older than a few weeks) where SG says this. Everyone is a pundit when they know the outcome. Also what valuable private data did they gain from these cities exactly? Their proposed investment/infrastructure plans?? Amazon probably has better/more useful data than any local govt organization.

Obviously Amazon was going to get a great bargain and bunch of info to boot - they have massive bargaining power.

Not participating in the bid would have been suicide for the politicians of any major city save perhaps Kreuzberg, Berlin [1].

The amount of wealth creation and subsequent tax payments/land value boost that any FAANG company would bring with a new HQ is way too big to be ignored.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/may/09/fuck-off-goog...

>Not participating in the bid would have been suicide for the politicians of any major city

I find that pretty implausible. Foxconn didn't save Scott Walker (and I don't think that's because his would-be supporters later realized that it wasn't such a sweet deal, either).

On the other hand, word got out pretty immediately that it was the worst deal of that type ever.

And it was a Chinese company. Chinese.

It's a Taiwanese company but who knows about Taiwan's status going into the future.

This is a good recent article about that Foxconn deal: https://www.newyorker.com/news/dispatch/did-scott-walker-and...

What is Foxconn’s name recognition and brand reputation compared to Amazon, though? Also an Amazon HQ means a much higher quality of jobs than a Foxconn facility.

> they have massive bargaining power

Wouldn't call it "massive" in NYC. The office size is projected to employ 25,000 people in total. Nice number, but not "massive" for a city of 8,623,000 people.

The average salary for these employees will be many x greater than the average NYC resident - you need to compare the relative size of the +25k employees to the ~200k subset of residents that make $200k+ in NY, not the entire 8M pop.

Not to mention the knock-on effects of the many jobs the HQ will indirectly create - cleaning, food prep, waste mgmt, facilities, security, transportation, etc.

But yes, I agree that NYC is probably the city with the highest bargaining power in the US due to its size and economic diversification. And yet they still submitted a bid, even while Mayor de Blasio was badmouthing the company [1]

It will be interesting to see what the incentive package was - that's when we'll know just how much Amazon profited from the whole bid/selection process.

[1] https://www.businessinsider.com/bill-de-blasio-amazon-hq2-de...

> The average salary for these employees will be many x greater than the average NYC resident - you need to compare the relative size of the +25k employees to the ~200k subset of residents that make $200k+ in NY, not the entire 8M pop.

NYC isn't known for small salaries, partly because it's not easy to live in Manhattan on a small salary.

A major industry in Manhattan is banking, and folks in investment banks pull salaries that easily rival engineers, even fresh out of school.

In fact that's a big reason that tech stayed out of NYC for a long time. It used to be that even senior engineers made half of what a junior investment banker would get.

Not all among these 25k employees will be paid over $200k. Not even among engineers. Amazon doesn't pay that well, for a FAANG.

This isn't the Bay, where if you're not an engineer, you're a starving artist. More than anywhere else in the US, engineers who think of themselves as "handsomely paid" will be up for a rude awakening in Manhattan.

For the sake of argument, let's say 5,000 of the new employees will be making $200k+. That means that their effect will be less than 15,000 employees making about $80k each, which I bet is about average for Manhattan.

Not a ton of effect.

> And yet they still submitted a bid, even while Mayor de Blasio was badmouthing the company

It would be outrageous if they didn't. Even 100 well paying jobs should be enough for the mayor to try to court them. He's a public servant, and these jobs serve the public.

Moreover, this will help establish NYC as a tech hub, something it's been striving for for quite a while, generally without great success.

Finally, I bet the incentive package isn't as aggressive as others that were submitted. Amazon wants to be in NYC quite as much as NYC wants Amazon.

Good points. I think we're mostly in agreement that NY needed to put a bid in, unrealistic to call for cities to boycott the bid process. And that the impact of Amazon building a 2nd HQ will be pretty big for the city, if not in $$ terms (which I still believe) then at least in perception and to get access to the young professional talent that would've gone into banking/consulting otherwise. Will be interesting to see how the city handles increasing tech gentrification vs. bankers moving to connecticut

200k is at the low/mid range of an SDE2 at Amazon, Amazon pays more competitively than people give them credit for, especially compared to the majority of firms competing for software engineers in NYC right now.

An SDE2 is a senior software engineer, typically one who's been with Amazon for a few years.

It's unreasonable to assume most of the employees in the new office are going to be SDE2. Likely most of them will be new hires and SDE1.

$200k total compensation is not competitive for an experienced senior software engineer in Manhattan. I bet one of the arguments against NYC was that Amazon would likely have to improve compensation packages.

An SDE 2 isn't really a senior software engineer role, that would be SDE3, where many of which make closer to 300k.

I'm not an expert on Amazon, but I do have friends working there, so I asked them.

They told me it's very rare for a new hire to come in as SDE3. Even a very experienced senior engineer is unlikely to get an offer above SDE2 level.

SDE3 is thus not just a senior engineer, but one who has been with Amazon for several years.

Per our discussion, that means very few of the new office employees are going to be above SDE2 level. The stated purpose of this office is to recruit new talent, which will be at SDE2 level at most.

Finally, "close to 300k" isn't very competitive for a senior NYC SWE who has been with the same company for years. I'm sure you know this is far below most other FAANGs for a similar position.

Close to 300k would be a person receiving an offer as an SDE 3, where with time spent at the company that amount is higher. It might have been different in my experience, but plenty of new people come in as SDE 3's should they have the relevant experience. The difference in compensation between amazon and fb/google/netflix is minimal except for at the very junior levels.

All I can say is: it doesn't match the accounts I am hearing from friends.

For example, a couple of my friends interviewed with Amazon fairly recently, for senior engineering positions. In every case when the same person received an offer from Amazon + another FAANG - the other FAANG offer was substantially higher.

In one case I know the exact numbers, and the other FAANG offer was 50% (!) higher.

> The difference in compensation between amazon and fb/google/netflix is minimal except for at the very junior levels.

This not only contradicts what I know from friends, it also makes little sense. Hiring top talent straight out of college is a huge priority for companies like Amazon, which is trying to build a strong talent base. Underpaying at the entry level means they'll lose all the best candidates.

Only paying competitively at more senior levels means they're counting on these people to suddenly relocate to Seattle after 5-6+ years at another FAANG, which would never happen. Especially as Amazon doesn't pay particularly well at the senior level too.

You want to tell me an L4-5 from Google will move to Seattle to work as an SDE3 for "almost $300k"? I.E. take a 50% paycut to work for a company with worse reputation in an area that has far fewer tech jobs than the Bay? Mid career?


It's pretty well known that if you get an offer from Amazon and also from Facebook or Google, you will accept Facebook or Google. This is true for all levels, and the numbers you are quoting only confirm this preference.

My impression is that Amazon has been having trouble competing for top talent, and is working to improve its propositions, with this big new office in NYC being part of the pitch. They do have ways to go before they can actually compete with the better FAANGs out there, to the point when people will routinely choose them over Facebook or Google or Apple.

Just look at levels.fyi which is relatively up to date data on how much people make at each level. The level to level mapping may be higher at google, but google is also notorious for down leveling, and in turn making less money and having less ability for quick advancement anyways. Add on the fact that amazon has had better stock growth and the total amount is negligible.

I've worked at multiple fangs/unicorns, and any differences between these companies is largely marginal. Maybe amazon is worse now than I realized, and maybe other companies are better now than I realized, but overall, what ultimately matters more is that you're at a place that will allow you to keep getting promoted rather than any one company that pays more at any given level.

And NYC gives a tax deal to the corporation, while the workers get to pay city income tax, state income tax and federal income tax, high property and sales taxes, while also having one of the highest costs of living of most cities. Not great for the future workers at all while Amazon gets to cash in on tax incentives. Amazon could have gotten great tax benefits elsewhere in places that don’t tax their employees so damned much. Unless you are single, New York City isn’t much of a draw due to either a long commute or excessively high housing costs. Amazon could literally locate in Mobile, Alabama and be able to recruit just fine. A $200k salary in Mobile is worth $600 in NYC.

> Amazon could literally locate in Mobile, Alabama and be able to recruit just fine.

This is completely detached from reality.

Amazon is fighting for top talent against other FAANGs and all other employers. If you can't also get an offer from the likes of Apple and Google, or at least other decent employers, Amazon doesn't really want you.

If you can get offers from good employers in good locations, let along from Google and Facebook, you're not moving to Mobile Alabama for no Amazon job. Certainly not if you're a young single guy.

Amazon wouldn't invest billions of dollars in this new office, compared to a few millions in Mobile, for no good reason. You may not like it, or Amazon generally, but they are known to do their homework.

>The average salary for these employees will be many x greater than the average NYC resident

This isn't just an office for software developers so that's not likely to be true.

If they are picking NYC, I see why Long Island City makes sense with proximity to Manhattan (and maybe Cornell on Roosevelt Island) plus its explosive growth, but still so much unused space.

I have to say I haven't heard from one person in Astoria or Long Island City (where I live and work, respectively) that's excited about this. And there has been a lot of buzz about it over the past couple weeks. The strain on the transit system and increasing rents that are already skyrocketing is definitely freaking out a lot of people.

Maybe it's a little selfish of me, but I'm pretty terrified of what it will do to our office's rent in particular...even though it's been expanding rapidly and getting more expensive, Long Island city has been a great place for cheapish space in old industrial buildings for new/small businesses. I figure we and a lot of the surrounding small businesses will be pushed out at the ends of our leases.

I am very curious to know where in Long Island City they are targeting. There are so many big industrial lots that they could build on or new construction that they could move into. I had heard they were looking at one of the Plaxall-owned buildings, but can't remember the source.

I'm saddened by this because it just adds to hyper concentration.

DC is already woefully over staffed with overpaid folks living off of guaranteed tax revenues, I don't believe in the inherent productivity there, and just cynical enough to believe it's a means for AMZN to leverage political power and government contracts.

NYC is understandable ...

... but it would have been really nice for business diversity for that to go to so many other places. Chicago, Texas, Toronto, Raleigh, New Jersey etc etc.

I dont understand it. We seem to have decided as a culture that absolutely everything had to be in like five cities. Its a major contributor to division and polarization and a trend that is destroying the middle class.

Taking the slider to the other extreme, you end up with company towns everywhere, and there are a whole lot of burned out husks of civilization that are memories to that.

Until we truly solve remote, there will be some concentration. And there's value to that as an employee. If your employer goes kaput, or you're stagnating in your career, or you have an abusive boss, there are plenty of opportunities available, and enough of them that one shock to the system won't break the local economy.

Of course, the flip side of that is that real estate values go through the roof.

>Taking the slider to the other extreme, you end up with company towns everywhere

Why would you go to the other extreme? There are hundreds of large cities around the US that could easily headquarter these big companies and not become company towns.

Hundreds is a stretch. When you get down to the hundredth-largest city you’re at Des Moines, population 217k. At that point, if the company were to say “zero our taxes or we leave”, the city would do as told.

How small can a city be and have a healthy relationship with an employer of 25,000?

These kinds of demands for special treatment need to be made illegal. That would help.

I mean there are a lot of economic reasons for that, right?


A company like Amazon will have some natural needs. No other city can really beat NYC for meeting those needs.

Not Chicago. Not Toronto. Not Raleigh. Not Jersey.

And certainly not Texas.

By air, land, and sea the best and most bountiful transport links to the rest of the US, or to the Europe-Africa side of the world, are out of NYC. Now maybe we can change that? But we don't seem to be working towards changing it. So as of today, and for the foreseeable future, NYC is the best hub.

I think they could meet those needs elsewhere but they can be choosey so why not.

At least we have five of them. Pity those poor English, for example.

I feel like not many places are willing to do the work in order to attract an Amazon; or better yet, foster an environment where one could build one organically.

Too many pundits are trying to shame Amazon into moving to a city like Detroit or a city in the American heartland. But these areas are unattractive places for obvious reasons and it seems like Americans want to deny it. Want to attract an Amazon? Invest in colleges, reduce business regulations, attract an international and diverse populace which would in turn create an interesting culture, invest in local secondary schools, and (I hate to say this) drop the social conservative politics. One of the reasons why London, Paris, New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, etc. are attractive internationally is the liberal populace and progressive culture - nobody wants to move to a socially conservative place.

I feel like the partisanship that America is experiencing is only going to accelerate. As of now, America's future is in the cities and for whatever reason, cities tend to generate a certain culture that many people in America's heartland don't want. They're going to have to be more welcoming of it if they want to attract these sort of businesses.

This doesn't really explain why they didn't pick NJ or Boston which are liberal, well educated, incredibly diverse and multicultural. Also the sentiment of "reduce business regulations" goes together with conservative politics more often.

I also disagree that "nobody wants to move to a socially conservative place". CA, Florida, Colorado, Nevada are all examples of places that were conservative or still are but appear to be going through shifts as population moves there.

The areas with the most growth are cities, not states. And Boston is already wealthy. The states you mentioned all have major cities that are seeing the type of growth I'm talking about.

The real "losers" in this situation are heartland states without major metro areas, like most of the plain states and rural America.

Northern Virginia is full of data centers and tech workers and has been since the dotcom days.

This is no longer an HQ2 it’s a satellite campus. Amazon took advantage of cities vying for this HQ and in the end of the day its 20k employees maybe.

This whole "contest" has to be greatest PR and marketing campaign of last few years

What's new here that the NYT didn't report a week ago?

Northern Virginia is a hot mess of congestion. If they're smart, they'll go west of Dulles, or at the very least, not go further east than Reston. Better to stay out in Ashburn or something.

The story says Crystal City, which is close to DC but has a lot of nearby residential and transit options. And it has been losing tenants for a while so there is some slack for Amazon to take up.

Amazon already has a sizable footprint in Ashburn, I would be surprised if they went very far away from there.

I have been wondering if any of the cities that proposed will make their proposals public now that the final decision has been made. My own city, Orlando, released only a redacted version of the proposal. How should cities and states manage the tension between their duty to transparency and the competitive advantage of keeping proposals secret?

Hot take: none of these are headquarters. These are just big sattelite campuses that every company has. I will also predict that hiring in these offices will be far lower than projected, especially engineering hires

Very reasonable thought. I'd think Amazon is now expanding to level of IT consulting companies who send hordes of consultants to sell/implement pre packaged solutions of their own or third party.

This is not some SV level talent that Amazon will be looking for these positions. So I do not see why salaries will be SDE 2/3/4 or whatever.

NoVA is a great place to raise a family. For that reason, I'm actually kind of disappointed in Amazon choosing to setup HQ here. We have our own tech industry here, one that is very focused on and around professional services, and it works for us. We aren't defined by dude-bro culture--I think it's difficult to say that any East Coast city is defined by any specific culture. If Amazon comes to DC in the same way they set up in Seattle, it's not going to be a nice ride for the 20 million rest of us who live and grew up in this area.

Regardless of Amazon's culture, it will still have an upward competitive pressure on your salary as a developer. That is always a good thing.

I'm sure everyone knows this already, but just search Google or DDG for the URL and click the first search result to read the article.

What do you think this means for software engineering in NYC? IMO it's a good thing; more tech talent and the most legit tech company in NYC (besides maybe Google).

But that about the tech economy and SE profession? What will the impact be? More demand for SEs, sure, and more SEs will be attracted to NYC too.

These are all obvious first wave affects, but what will second, third wave affects be?

Could very easily trigger a switch that leads to NYC being the city with more second offices for Bay area companies than Seattle. And possibly over time, NYC gaining dominance in the tech industry beyond what the Bay Area has today.

The largest cities have historically always held dominance in every industry over the long tail, and I imagine that will ultimately be the case here too.

How much of this is really going to be a "second HQ" and how much of it is going to be a handful of engineers and a small force business/lobbyist folks?

The locations seem to suggest business and lobbying interests. I'd be surprised if any of these offices number more than 20k. It feels like one giant sham for some glorified satellite offices.

Since each city is only receiving half the benefit they thought they were bidding on, presumably they’ll each get to cut their bids in half — the subsidies, tax abatements, infrastructure spending promises, etc.? But I haven’t seen any notice of this in the news coverage.

As a Bostonian, woot!

The already planned Amazon Seaport expansion actually makes more sense than the HQ2 proposal did. We'll see what happens with the GE HQ in the area anyway. Suffolk Downs was always a bit of a weird location for the HQ. Technically on the subway (Blue Line) but north of the city in working class areas that would presumably not have been preferred young tech worker housing in the near term.

Did either NY or NoVA offer significant incentives for Amazon?

David Sirota writes that Amazon Cuomo is offering something like a billion dollars in tax incentives but a Democratic Assemblyman is now introducing legislation to block it.

Source: https://capitalandmain.com/will-new-york-fund-amazon-subsidi...

The details of the NoVA bid have not been released or leaked yet, to my knowledge.

What will it mean for a company to have three "headquarters"? Will each location focus on a different part of the business?

It's actually not uncommon at even medium-large companies. Once you're spread among large or even not-so-large campuses, you might almost just as well be in different cities anyway. They don't tend to be called HQs but they are effectively divisional HQs.

It means nothing. Most of big companies have multiple big offices, with big autonomy and owned parts of the business in each of them.

It's all just marketing buzz from amazon.

Really - they had to ruin New York City...


This will be pissing in the ocean compared to the overall size of NYC. 10k employees added gradually? No one will even notice. Google has almost that many employees working within two blocks.

WSJ was the outlet to break this story, before anyone asks why a link from a paywalled site was submitted.

I mean, sure, but the New York Times reported this a week ago? Nice to have confirmation, though.

Isn't this article still speculation, since nothing has been confirmed?

WSJ isn’t speculating, they say they have confirmed this with their sources. The difference is that no one cares about the former, but in the latter case, if WSJ is wrong, their credibility takes a hit.

Word is that an official announcement is coming quite soon.

Would someone mind pasting the article content for those of us who aren't WSJ subscribers (assuming such is at least tacitly allowed by mods)? Seems WSJ has gotten more aggressive in enforcing their paywall.

Use outline.com

Thanks. FYI the content shown by Outline is, as of 18:45 PT:

> New York City and Northern Virginia will be the homes for Amazon.com Inc.’s second and third headquarters, according to people familiar with the matter, ending a more than yearlong public contest that started with 238 candidates and ended with a surprise split of its so-called HQ2.

> The imminent announcement is expected as soon as Tuesday, according to the people. Other cities may also receive major sites, some of the people said.

> More to Come

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