Northern Virginia, DC, Montgomery on Amazon’s top 20 list

Northern Virginia; Montgomery County, Md.; Washington, D.C. They’re among the top 20 “cities” still in the running for Amazon’s second headquarters — widely known as HQ2 — and the 50,000 or so well-paying jobs it would bring. OK, they’re not all cities but the meaning is clear enough.

“We are very excited that Northern Virginia is included on the short list as a potential location for Amazon’s Second Headquarters. Fairfax and Loudoun Counties are able to offer a great quality of life coupled with an innovative and business friendly culture for future Amazon corporate neighbors and employees,” said Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova in an email. “With our highly educated and talented workforce and a location close to Dulles International Airport and a new Silver Line train station, we hope we will have the opportunity to welcome Amazon HQ2 to Virginia.”

Phyllis Randall, the chair of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, said, “This is a great example of how a region working together can tell a powerful story.  The partnership between Loudoun and Fairfax County on a Metro-accessible site highlights our commitment to provide the best solution where Amazon and their employees can live, work, learn and play.”

One of the Northern Virginia sites under consideration is a site near Dulles Airport that “blends urbanism and nature,” said Alan Fogg of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

“As part of the northern Virginia proposal, Loudoun and Fairfax counties collaborated with developer Open-Rebees to submit the largest non-developed site on Metro that checks all of the boxes that Amazon and other corporate users want and need,” Fogg said in an email. “As home to a major backbone of the Internet, a top-notch workforce and Washington Dulles international Airport, the two counties are convinced that northern Virginia has all of the assets needed to merit serious consideration.”

Gerald L. Gordon, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, noted that Amazon already has chosen Fairfax County for an east coast campus of Amazon Web Services (AWS).

“We are excited to learn that Fairfax and Loudoun counties made the short list of sites that Amazon will consider for HQ2,” Gordon said. “The Economic Development Authority, Loudoun County and partners stand ready to demonstrate to the company why our combination of business and quality-of-life assets make this a great location for HQ2 in addition to the mission-critical services AWS provides to the private and public sectors.”

Buddy Rizer, executive director of Loudoun Economic Development, said: “The site Amazon is considering is near Loudoun’s Data Center Alley – the largest and fastest-growing data center market in the world. It will be more than fitting for an international e-commerce corporation of Amazon’s stature to locate its second headquarters here.”

Nothing more will be said publicly for now, Fogg said. “As with all of our business development efforts, all information is considered confidential. Neither Fairfax nor Loudoun publicly discuss projects that are in proposal or negotiation stages. We will wait until Amazon announces its final location decision before releasing further details about the sites under consideration.”

Together, more than 1.6 million people live in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. For more than a decade, the two counties have been in the top three communities in the nation for median household income. The combined workforce has one of the highest education levels in the U.S., and is the highest concentration of tech workers on the east coast, Fogg said.

Later this year

Amazon announced the 20 remaining contenders today and said it expects to make a final decision this year, following negotiations with each of the candidates, who will be expected to put up major tax breaks to seal the deal.

Also on the list, which contains few surprises, are New York, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia and Toronto. Interestingly, the DMV (DC, Md., Va.) lash-up is one of only two candidates — New York/Newark being the other — that actually constitutes a single metro area.

Whether this increases the region’s chances is debatable. While the D.C. area as a whole contains more resources, talent, etc., than any of the three jurisdictions, it also consists of a witches’ brew of governmental bodies — two state legislatures plus the D.C. Council, two big counties (plus countyless D.C.) and a hefty number of smaller cities in each county (Fairfax, Falls Church, Vienna, Bethesda, Silver Spring, etc., etc.)

You recognize the names — they’re the same ones unable to agree on funding Metro, building a new bridge over the Potomac or any of a number of other crucial quality-of-life issues. Will they be able to cooperate to increase the chance of landing HQ2? Stay tuned.

Few surprises

There were few surprises on the list of finalists. Some were shocked to see Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis listed but that’s mostly due to coastal journalists failing to look out the window as they fly over the country’s midsection.

Notably, Los Angeles was the sole West Coast city to make the cut. It had been theorized that Amazon wanted to establish its second headquarters in a different geographic area — you know, one that doesn’t resemble Seattle. That pretty much ruled out San Francisco, Portland and other coffee-rich enclaves.

LA, on the other hand, is regarded as a foreign country by northern West Coast cities and thus might qualify. It is also, like it or not, the capital of the American entertainment industry, which is increasingly a branch of the software/technology sector and by many measures the United States’ largest exporter.

Back in December, it was rumored that Amazon had settled on Atlanta. This was sparked by a report that it had hired a lobbyist to haunt the halls of the Georgia legislature. That report, of course, turned out to be what the DMV’s most prominent public figure might have termed “fake news.”

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James R. Hood
James R. Hood is the editor and publisher of FairfaxNews.com. A former Associated Press editor and executive, he has more than 50 years of reporting experience.