Amazon’s rejects grovelled for months only to be left out in cold

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Disappointment sent a chill through Winnipeg this morning as it learned it was one of 200-plus losers in the Amazon HQ2 sweepstakes.

Disappointment, and eyelash-freezing weather.

Was it the Canadian city’s January average of 3ºF (-16ºC) that persuaded Amazon to look elsewhere? A warm climate isn’t listed among the criteria the company used to whittle down the possibilities to 20 locations, 19 of which are in the US. Judging by the list of winners, though, it didn’t hurt.

But not too warm! Las Vegas didn’t make the cut either.

Bear fighting

Calgary, for instance, said it was willing to fight a bear for the online retailer. It’s unclear exactly what that meant. Scarborough, Maine, was ready to build Amazon offices on the town’s horse track. Birmingham, Alabama, built three giant Amazon delivery boxes and placed them strategically in the city. Delaware offered the biggest sweetheart tax deal in its history – so big that Democratic Governor John Carney wouldn’t say exactly how much it was.

“It’s a pretty big number,” he said.

Neighbouring Philadelphia and three locations near Washington made the cut. Delaware didn’t.

Amazon started its version of the hunger games by listing preferences for the new campus. They included a metro area with a population of more than 1 million, communities that “think big” and access to an international airport.

That didn’t stop Des Moines, metro population 612,000, from bidding. It is, after all, Iowa’s biggest city. Amazon might have been attracted by Des Moines’s generosity toward another behemoth tech company. Last year, the city gave Apple Inc US$208mil (RM819.29mil) in tax breaks for building a datacentre with 50 jobs. Imagine the tax breaks for 50,000. But the proposal didn’t break Amazon’s top 20.

Milam County, Texas, situated between the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, got a thumbs down after creating a “Blue Sky” team to design its pitch, which was basically, Hey Amazon, we got lots of land. HQ2 would have tripled its 24,000 population.

Puerto Rico

In perhaps the gutsiest move, Puerto Rico’s leaders didn’t let a lack of electricity stop them. They took time out from hurricane recovery to put together a bid.

And Portland, Oregon, will be free to stay eccentric (a popular local slogan is “Keep Portland Weird”) without the sobering influence of fulfilling millions of Internet orders. Maybe the rainy Northwest town was too much like Seattle, where Amazon’s HQ1 is located.

No place wanted it more than Detroit. Still rebuilding after its 2013 bankruptcy, the Motor City’s effort was led by billionaire Dan Gilbert, a native and chairman of mortgage lender Quicken Loans Inc.

The city, with a 9.6% jobless rate, put together a 242-page bid book and a video called “Detroit. Move Here. Move the World.” Twenty-eight percent of residents told a CNBC pollster they “definitely” wanted to work for Amazon, making Detroit the locale most hospitable to – or, perhaps, desperate for – Amazon’s HQ2.

Not all American civic leaders were prepared to debase themselves for a shot at hosting chief executive officer Jeff Bezos and his company. Ron Nirenberg, mayor of San Antonio, Texas, and Bexar County Judge Nelson W. Wolff wrote an Oct 11 letter to Bezos chiding him for creating a bidding war.