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Toronto makes short list for new Amazon headquarters, Waterloo Region also part of bid

Last Updated Jan 18, 2018 at 3:16 pm EDT

The Amazon logo in Santa Monica, Calif., on Sept. 6, 2012. Amazon says it will open a second corporate office in Vancouver, but the internet giant has yet to name the location of the highly sought-after second headquarters that has commanded the attention of governments across North America.The office will be located downtown and employ an additional 1,000 workers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Reed Saxon

Toronto is the only Canadian city on Amazon Inc.’s short list of 20 candidates for a second North American headquarters.

The e-commerce giant received 238 applications for the opportunity and says narrowing it down to 20 was very tough.

Regional Chair Ken Seiling says Waterloo Region is also part of the Toronto bid.

“As part of the Toronto bid, they included the larger territory – which included the corridor right down to the Region of Waterloo. I think that speaks volumes about the strengths of the local economy, and what’s happening in the GTA and Waterloo Region in terms of skills, and what they have to offer.”

Seiling says the fact that it’s the only Canadian bid to survive and make the short-list, just speaks volumes about what a great place this is.

“Amazon needs a larger territory and area to produce the number of employees they would want, with the skill-sets they would want. It’ll bring much important investment into the community right from here through to Toronto – and this certainly just shows that Canada is in the running for these kinds of things.”

Seiling adds that he believes if this is successful, the benefits would extend right along the entire Toronto-Waterloo Region corridor.

“I suspect there will be further research, and we’ll hear more as this unfolds.”

Meantime, Tony LaMantia is President and CEO of Waterloo EDC.

He says he’s pleased the bid has made the short-list.

“It reinforces that we were wise to partner with Toronto, give the 200+ cities that put applications in for this. It would mean more innovation locally, and just making the short-list is a great achievement in itself. I’m optimistic but also want to be realistic – given the fierce competition, and the current political environment in the U.S. … this won’t be easy, and is gonna be decided over a matter of months. I wouldn’t be surprised if this goes a couple of quarters beyond that.”

Although that may be a little disheartening, LaMantia says he does still think Toronto Region has a shot.

“I do think we have a shot, because as the end of the day business people worship business and dollars first and foremost – so a company like Amazon will have to put talent as priority one. There are other considerations too, but you have to be realistic, there are some great U.S. cities that have already put up some great incentives. At the end of the day, it’s going to be a rational business decision.. and while I’m pleased, I think it’s smart to curb our enthusiasm as there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

The other 19 locations it will consider are all in the U.S. and include New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver and Nashville.

Amazon says it plans to choose the location later this year after diving deeper into the proposals from its top cities.

An Amazon spokesperson says the process taught the company about several new communities across North America that it will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.

The company plans to invest more than $5 billion into the forthcoming headquarters and hire 50,000 highly paid employees in the city housing it.

Ontario’s Premier and the Minister of Economic Growth have released a statement. You can read it below.

“The Government of Ontario welcomes the news that Amazon has placed the Toronto Region on its shortlist as a potential site for HQ2, with the promise of as many as 50,000 ongoing and well-paying jobs. Of the more than 238 bidding cities across North America, Toronto stands out as an ideal destination with its talented and educated workforce, leading research and educational institutions, competitive investment climate, outstanding quality of life and vibrant, diverse communities.

Innovation drives today’s rapidly changing economy, and Ontario is leading the way. Globally recognized technology companies have already taken notice of what Ontario has to offer. Apple, Google, IBM and Amazon already conduct R&D in Ontario. Whether it is a world-leading tech company expanding into new markets or an Ontario-based company piloting new and innovative projects, our province sets companies up for success.

Ontario’s greatest strength is our people, and that’s exactly what we communicated directly to Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos. Diverse, educated and innovative — they are exactly the kind of talented, motivated people companies like Amazon need to stay ahead of the competition.

As a government, we know our people have what it takes to help companies like Amazon grow, and we are doing everything we can to ensure they are ready for these opportunities. We are providing free tuition to hundreds of thousands of students, increasing the number of STEM graduates by 25 per cent, and graduating 1,000 applied masters in Artificial Intelligence within five years.

Taken together with a plan that expands medicare by making prescription medications free for everyone under 25, creates 100,000 new child care spots and raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour, we are building an Ontario where workers and businesses can truly thrive in this changing global economy. No competing U.S. city comes even close to offering this level of talent, nor can they measure up in the ways we are supporting both workers and businesses, be it through universal public health care, a strong system of publicly funded education, expanding access to quality and affordable child care or the magnitude of our commitment to public infrastructure.

Our fair, diverse and inclusive communities foster knowledge sharing and forward-thinking attitudes unparalleled with other regions across North America. And our world-class research institutions and generous R&D tax incentives make Ontario an ideal place to develop innovative new technologies and ideas.

This recognition of our province and Toronto’s many strengths confirm that our plan for a fairer, better Ontario is working. We are building a province where there are more jobs, more investment and every opportunity for success.

To help support Toronto Region in the next stage of this process, we have asked Ed Clark, in his capacity as Business Advisor to the Premier, to chair the government’s response. Clark, former Group President and CEO of TD Bank Group, will help to guide the bid in collaboration with Toronto Global, federal and local governments, and all other involved business and community stakeholders.

We also want to acknowledge the remarkable work of the other Ontario communities that submitted bids to Amazon and, in the process, helped to strengthen the profile and reach of our province’s many strengths.

Independent of the outcome, we will continue to foster a culture of innovation, and be a supportive, enthusiastic partner to all companies looking to do business in Ontario.”

Waterloo Region and Guelph both behind Toronto’s Amazon bid