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Economy

Calgary launches ‘Hey Amazon’ chalk campaign in Seattle ahead of HQ2 bid

WATCH: The Calgary team hoping to lure Amazon to Calgary is hoping billions of dollars in economic incentives and a creative pitch will bring the tech giant to the city. Gary Bobrovitz reports.

Calgary Economic Development has launched an artistic campaign on the streets of Seattle to encourage Amazon to come to Calgary amid their search for a North American city where they can open a second headquarters.

The second headquarters, called HQ2, has to meet a list of requirements that cover everything from a population over one million, to access to major highways.

READ MORE: Amazon headquarters would ‘fundamentally alter’ potential Canadian city candidates

On Thursday, Calgary Economic Development president and CEO Mary Moran spoke to Global Calgary about the marketing campaign they’ve launched to entice Amazon to the city, including a series of colourful chalk memos around Amazon’s existing home of Seattle.

The chalk memos say things like “Hey Amazon. We’d change our name for you. Calmazon? Amagary? Love, Calgary” and “Hey Amazon. We lost our rain jacket in 1988. Oh Well. Love, Calgary.”

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“We have approximately 200 of them in and around the Amazon campus in downtown Seattle,” Moran said. “It’s a very clever campaign.”

Moran said the focus of the campaign is piquing the interest of Amazon executives and employees, who also get to vote.

A news release from Calgary Economic Development described the campaign as “cheeky, self-deprecating and bold.”

“It is based on the premise that no other city will work harder than Calgary to attract and integrate Amazon.”

The campaign also included a 100-foot banner draped from the side of a building near Amazon’s offices.

WATCH: Calgary Economic Development’s Amazon campaign video

Amazon is promising up to 50,000 high paying jobs and a US$5-billion investment for the winning city.

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The deadline for submissions is Thursday. Moran then estimates it will be six weeks before a short list is determined.

Why would Calgary be a good fit for Amazon’s HQ2?

Moran cited two main reasons that Calgary would be the best spot for Amazon to open its second North American headquarters.

“The number one reason is this talent pool,” she said. “We’re a headquarter centre – it is a headquarter office. They want legal, administration, accounting, management people – as well as engineers. So we’re well positioned from a talent pool perspective.”

“The number two reason is because we have a turnkey option for real estate. So they can land here, virtually tomorrow, and have 500,000 to a million square feet of contiguous space.”

WATCH: Calgary Economic Development president and CEO Mary Moran joins Global Calgary to discuss Calgary’s bid to host Amazon’s second North American headquarters.

Pitch to woo Amazon to Calgary officially submitted
Pitch to woo Amazon to Calgary officially submitted

Amazon had a list of criteria cities must meet in order to be considered. Calgary meets all but one – a direct flight to Washington, D.C. Despite this, Moran isn’t worried.

“WestJet was on our executive committee, they’re also on our marketing committee,” she explained, adding that WestJet was one of the first calls Calgary Economic Development made when it considered making a bid.

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“It was the only shortfall we could see in the RFP – the request for proposal,” she said. “But if the demand is there, they’re prepared to work on that flight.”

Which city is Calgary’s biggest rival?

It looks like Calgary’s biggest competition could be Denver, Colo.

Moran cited a New York Times assessment that looked at all of the possible cities to bid in the U.S., and suggested Denver was the No. 1 option for Amazon, based on the company’s HQ2 criteria.

“A statistician from Canada – actually from Vancouver – then did the same comparison across the Canadian cities and said Calgary is the number one city in Canada,” Moran said.