02/21/2018 Meg Slindee

Who will survive Amazon’s next HQ2 elimination round?

Dear Amazon,

I’m onto you for your HQ2 search/publicity stunt, as if you needed more attention, but I admit: I’m hooked. I can’t seem to stop myself from clicking on any headline containing “HQ2.” This corporate headquarters search has all of the trappings of the best competitive reality shows in my lineup, and I’m not complaining.

It started with a public request for proposals, the outcome of which brought us good, bad and ugly auditions (Most involving the line “Alexa, where should Amazon’s HQ2 be located?”) reminiscent of American Idol, with Bezos in Simon Cowell’s chair saying “Next.”

While Amazon didn’t host a rose ceremony (that we know of), in a nail-biting Bachelor-esque episode of HQ2, they then narrowed the list to the top 20 contenders, sending the 218 less attractive cities home. They all said “Just the opportunity to be here was life-changing, and I just want all the other cities to win!,” I’m sure.

So here we are, anxiously awaiting the next episode of Survivor: Amazon Edition (not to be confused with season 6, Survivor: THE Amazon). There is no shortage of speculation on the next round of cuts and the final winner, with many expecting Amazon to choose Austin, Texas following what some call a clue in their Super Bowl ad. As we said in a previous post, data will play a major role in the decision process for Amazon, which will surely evaluate demographic information, infrastructure, workforce size, technology sector strength, location, and corporate environment.  

Last month, though, we rolled out our first Job Market Diversification Report, which evaluates and rates cities (Metropolitan Statistical Area, or MSAs), according to how diversified their job markets are by industry, company and job category. Cities with a healthy variety of sectors, companies and job categories receive the highest scores, while areas with limited options for job seekers, or with too much dependence on a small group of companies and industries, score lower.

Using our Job Market Diversification scoring system, here are the top 5 cities among Amazon’s Top 20:

  • Austin
  • Raleigh
  • Denver
  • Boston
  • Nashville*

*While Los Angeles made the Top 20, and has a diversification score of 42.9, Nashville, a close sixth in the rankings, bumps LA out of the running for its location away from the West Coast; HQ1 is in Seattle.

The chances of a healthy pool of pre-existing talent are higher in a more diversified job market. Choosing a city with a wide variety of employment options  bodes well for families that would potentially relocate to your next headquarters. Just as we can all benefit from more interaction with diverse cultures, being among a well-represented cross section of the workforce will help Amazon better serve and understand its customers.

So there you have it, Amazon. I don’t claim to know everything going into your final decision, but I do know a thing or two about elimination rounds. Don’t pick the sexiest city; pick the one with the biggest potential for long-term growth. When the cameras stop rolling on this fantastic miniseries, this marriage will be tough to annul.

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