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The eight most outrageous things cities did to lure Amazon for HQ2

The eight most outrageous things cities did to lure Amazon for HQ2


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Graffiti promoting Calgary, tagged in Seattle, Amazon’s first headquarters.
Graffiti promoting Calgary, tagged in Seattle, Amazon’s first headquarters.

Bids for Amazon’s second headquarters are due today, and all the vying North American cities interested in luring Amazon’s business have sent in their pitches. While some more conventional cities like Charlotte, North Carolina, offered up proposals of 20 possible locations for an Amazon campus in a carved wooden box, others truly went the extra mile, revealing maybe too much desperation.

It’s a game of give and take. With the new second headquarters, Amazon promises to add 50,000 new jobs to the local economy of whatever city it chooses, and invest over $5 billion in construction. In return, Amazon expects cities to offer tax breaks, fee reductions, relocations grants, and more in their pitches. Amazon hasn’t given details yet on when and how it will announce the winner of the bids.

Large cities like Dallas, New York, and San Diego are in the running, and cities both big and small have often ended up padding their applications with gifts, sweeteners, and the occasional flirtation.

New York City

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio said that tonight, key landmarks around the city like the Empire State Building, billboards, and Wi-Fi charging stations are going to light up in Amazon’s signature orange color. The four bids that New York is pitching Amazon on — including areas upstate and in the city — just aren’t enough, so New York is also going for frills and extra decorations to pretty up its proposal.

Tucson, Arizona

Tucson certainly whipped out the big guns when its economic development group hauled a 21-foot saguaro cactus to Amazon’s main Seattle headquarters via a truck. The plan didn’t turn out the way that Tucson’s economic group had hoped: Amazon refused to accept the gift.

Kansas City, Missouri

As we noted last week, Kansas City mayor Sly James is not one to let the competition outdo him. He wrote 1,000 reviews about Amazon products, giving them all five stars. His reviews had slick one-liners like, “I live in beautiful Kansas City where the average home price is just $122K, so I know luxe living doesn’t have to cost a ton.“ Of course, in every review, he never failed to drop a mention of why Kansas City is great. Then, he posted a trendy “unboxing” video on social media to share his efforts.

Ottawa, Ontario

On Tuesday, Ottawans were told to cheer for Amazon during intermission for a hockey game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Ottawa Senators. A gauge showed up on screen, with Calgary at the bottom if the audience made the least noise and Ottawa on top. It being Canada, of course, the message to make noise was reiterated in French: “Faites du bruit!”

Calgary, Alberta

Calgary may have taken a more traditional marketing approach, but it’s still funny. The city opted to tag Seattle streets with persuasive graffiti, and it hung a 200-foot banner near Amazon’s headquarters, a spokesperson for Calgary said. But because it rains so often in Seattle, the graffiti is already starting to blur. Calgary still deserves points for covering its bases though.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh has local restaurant Primanti Bros. offering free sandwiches to every Amazon employee who ends up working there. Each Pitts-Burger and Cheese sandwich goes for $7.39 normally, so if each of the 50,000 new employees got a sandwich, that would run for a total of $350,000, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette hypothesizes.

Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham tried wooing Amazon online and in person. The city set up three giant Amazon boxes around town. It also set up giant replicas of Amazon’s Dash Buttons that send pregenerated flirty tweets to the company, according to AP, like “Amazon, we got a 100% match on Bumble. Wanna go on a date?” Another tweet reads, "We are Chipotle and these other cities are Taco Bell, Amazon.”

Stonecrest, Georgia

Honestly, it’s hard to top this one. This small, recently formed town, located close to Atlanta, offered to rename itself Amazon, Georgia, for the company, as we noted at the beginning of October. Stonecrest’s proposal also includes 345 acres of land if Amazon selects it as the HQ destination.