Former Amazon employee warns attracting HQ2 could come at high cost

In this Tuesday, May 30, 2017, file photo, the Amazon logo is displayed at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square.
In this Tuesday, May 30, 2017, file photo, the Amazon logo is displayed at the Nasdaq MarketSite, in New York's Times Square. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

As cities across the continent consider putting bids together in hopes of becoming Amazon‘s second home, one former employee is weighing in on London’s chance of becoming the home of the company’s new corporate headquarters.

READ MORE: London eyes bid for Amazon’s second headquarters

With six years of experience as an executive at the online retail giant, Dr. James Thomson says what they’re likely looking for is steady access to IT employees.

He says the company has already done its research and adds it’s likely they’ve already compiled a short list, but he sees the call as a means of gathering data.

“[It allows] cities and regions that might not have been on Amazon’s radar because of a misperception or the wrong kind of data they had on those areas [to put themselves forward]. I think there may be some pleasant surprises from Amazon’s perspective around cities that are in fact relevant for what Amazon is looking for, but they didn’t realize that,” Thomson said.
Story continues below advertisement

The company made the announcement last Thursday, piquing the interest of local politicians with plans to employ as many as 50,000 people.

Thomson says attracting those people will come at a price.

“You’ve got very highly paid people showing up wanting nice houses, nice things, nice restaurants. While that’s all very appealing to a city planner, the reality is it costs a lot of money to make that happen, and how do you do that without adding 50,000 more cars of congestion every morning,” said Thomson.

Ward 7 Coun. Josh Morgan says London has something to offer those people.

“We can tick off those boxes and provide a very affordable quality of life. I think it’s worth the discussion. I don’t know where that discussion will lead, but I think if we’re not willing to have this sort of discussion, what are we willing to go for,” said Morgan. “They’re looking for proximity to a population centre. We have access to not just our population here, but we’re halfway between Toronto and Detroit. There’s three million people in southwestern Ontario. They’re looking for access to an international airport, we have one, access to major highways, we have those.”

While Morgan is enthusiastic about putting a bid together, Thomson says he’s wary for any city that wins the bid.

“There is potentially a little bit of a winner’s curse here where a city is going to spend a lot of money to get something they think they want only to see that it creates negative challenges throughout the city,” said Thomson.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Toronto to bid for Amazon’s second North American headquarters

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

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.

Sponsored content