The race is on to see which city will win the Amazon sweepstakes and become home to the company’s second North American headquarters. Will it be Toronto? Not likely, says the Ontario government’s chief business advisor, who claims that for political reasons Amazon will feel pressured to bestow its economic windfall on a US city.
Last week, Amazon announced its plans to build a headquarters outside of Seattle, one which could eventually employ a whopping 50,000 people and thus give an almost-unprecedented economic injection to one lucky city.
With a “Hello World” banner, the company issued its request for proposals, tacking up a substantial list of infrastructure and corporate requirements (demands, really) that hopeful municipalities should meet in order to be in the running — the city must have over a million people, good mass transit, for example, an international airport and must “think big” when it comes to locations and real estate for the company (in other words, be ready with the big perks and tax breaks).
Already over 100 cities across the continent have lined up to express their interest, with big metropolises like Chicago, Houston and New York City as well as smaller cities like Pittsburgh and Tucson, Arizona, all trying to attract the online retailer’s attention. (Reportedly, Tucson’s economic development officials shipped a six metre-tall saguaro cactus up to Seattle as a welcoming present.)
Heading up Toronto’s bid is Ed Clark, former TD Bank CEO and current economic advisor to Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne. Speaking to BNN, Clark began by saying that, clearly, both Ontario and Toronto tick all the right boxes for Amazon.
“The new jobs are being created in the knowledge economy,” Clark says, “and we have a huge [advantage] to offer the world. This is all about talent, about where people want to live. It’s about societies that are diverse and allow people to be who they are.”
“Realistically, if this were just a straight-up contest of where Amazon would go in the world, I think that Ontario has a high, high chance of winning that,” says Clark.
But ultimately, Clark admits that Toronto as well as every other Canadian city are long shots to come out on top in this contest, since the pressure on Amazon to keep its new HQ in the United States could very well be too strong, especially within the current political climate which prominently features President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.
“This would be a major political statement if Amazon stood up and said that the next 50,000 jobs we create are going to Canada, not the United States,” says Clark. “We don’t know whether or not Amazon is prepared to make that statement.”
As a result, Clark seems resigned to gunning for recognition as “best runner up,” hoping that Toronto makes it into the final round of contention.
“What we’ll be saying [to Amazon] is that we want the big prize but if you can’t do that then you should seriously think about augmenting your presence in Canada, in Ontario, because you need that labour supply that we can bring,” says Clark. “And frankly, there are lots of people who work for you today who don’t like where the United States is going and like where Canada is going.”