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Possibility of hosting Amazon North American headquarters has Alberta mayors excited

Click to play video 'Edmonton hoping to woo Amazon north' Edmonton hoping to woo Amazon north
WATCH ABOVE: Amazon has indicated it will open a second headquarters in North America. Officials in Edmonton are thrilled by the opportunity to potentially host the e-commerce giant. Fletcher Kent reports.

Amazon announced Thursday that it is hunting for a site for a new headquarters in North America, in addition to its sprawling Seattle hub.

Amazon says that it will spend more than $5 billion US to build another headquarters in North America to house as many as 50,000 employees. The technology company plans to stay in its current Seattle headquarters and the new space will be a full equal of its current home, said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

Toronto Mayor John Tory has already jumped on board, leading the charge to convince Amazon that it should call the city its second home.

Could Edmonton be next?

READ MORE: World-leading artificial intelligence program at University of Alberta gets major boost

Edmonton Economic Development said it’s aware of Amazon’s request for proposals (RFP) and will take a closer look.

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“Canadian cities will certainly be scrambling, all of the big ones, to understand this opportunity,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

“In our case, we’ll rally everyone from the airport authority to the local and regional economic development entities to the downtown business association to make a case for why Amazon should come and take one of the half empty or empty buildings in our downtown that are on sale right now, right in the heart of the innovation corridor that runs from NAIT to the U of A and has some of the brightest machine-learning people.”

READ MORE: Prominent artificial intelligence firm to open 1st lab outside UK in Edmonton 

“Amazon’s all about machine learning and customization and automation and anticipation. So, if they want to be close to Google DeepMind, and Machine Intelligence Institute which is one of the best in the world then maybe Edmonton would be a good place for them to choose.

“We’re looking at it and I’ve been in touch with Edmonton Economic Development already and things are moving,” the mayor said.

There could be a battle of Alberta brewing.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Calgary checks all the boxes on the criteria list that Amazon is looking for.

“Transportation, logistics hub, airport, most importantly, educated workforce and the ability to absorb that number of jobs, as well as the kind of tech sector we have here and the availability of office space — we’ve got them all. There’s probably no city in North America that is better positioned than we are.”

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Nenshi told Newstalk 770’s Calgary Today host Angela Kokott he’s signed a non-disclosure agreement, but does say he’s very familiar with the pitch from Amazon and was not surprised with the announcement Thursday from the technology giant.

“We are in and I’ll be talking with the province and the feds about how they can help us.”

Edmonton could also see some tough competition from out east.

In a statement, Toronto’s mayor said that city is a prime candidate for the technology giant and city staff plan to put together an attractive bid.

“I think it would be a regional full-court press because landing an anchor tenant like that, a global technology company, for any major Canadian city would be a coup,” Iveson said.

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“Certainly for Edmonton, they’d be able to take advantage of competitive leasing opportunities in our downtown as well as a great quality of life in the fastest-growing, youngest city with some of the best talent in the world in these technology areas.

“It’s a really exciting prospect. It’s going to be fiercely, fiercely, contested I’m sure, so we certainly want to explore the opportunity and put in something attractive.”

The company wants a city of more than a million people with an international airport, good education and mass transit.

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Cities have a little more than a month to apply through a special website, and the company said it will make a final decision next year.

— With files from The Canadian Press and Scott Johnston, 630 CHED