New study predicts Atlanta has best shot at becoming Amazon's HQ2


A demographic and place data firm has ranked Amazon's HQ2 top 20 picks across a number of factors to predict which city the tech giant will choose for its new headquarters. The firm, Sperling BestPlaces, has had a fairly good track record with its prior picks -- 15 of its top 20 picks made Amazon's short list, including its top 11. This time around, it's putting Atlanta, Georgia at the top of its list, followed by other areas in the Eastern U.S. (238 cities across North America had submitted proposals to Amazon in an attempt to lure the company to their area).

Amazon's $5 billion second headquarters will bring 50,000 jobs averaging more than $100,000 to the winning market over the next 10 to 15 years. The decision will likely have a trickle-down effect on the area, too, as Amazon employees exit the company to spin up their own businesses further down the road.

Amazon revealed its top 20 picks earlier this month with a list that hints strongly at a preference toward an Eastern U.S. location.

As Sperling's BestPlaces CEO Bert Sperling points out, a quarter of Amazon's picks are in the D.C. and New York areas.

"The Washington, DC and New York metro areas took a big jump in our prediction," he says of his firm's new rankings. "Amazon is giving us a big clue that there are really serious about these places. Three of their top 20 are in the Washington, DC area (DC, plus suburban Virginia and Maryland), and Newark is part of the New York City metro area. Together that's 25 percent of their picks," Sperling noted.

Fourteen of Amazon's top 20 are in the Eastern time zone, which gets them closer to Europe -- an increasingly bigger market for them, he also says.

However, the firm is betting on Atlanta as the top pick for a variety of reasons.

It's still close enough to DC, Boston and New York, but Atlanta has more available space to offer, and is affordable. If Amazon were to choose this southern city, it could build on the outskirts of town to avoid crowding, overpricing and congestion.

On the latter part of Sperling's ranked list are other, smaller cities that may not have the resources Amazon needs. Toronto is also lowly ranked because its location in another country would add a layer of complexity to the business operations there.

The updated predictions from the firm are:

The data firm isn't the only one making predictions about Amazon's HQ2.

Betting sites are getting in on the action, too. For example, the Irish gambling site Paddy Power, is also currently giving better odds to Eastern cities, with 2-to-1 odds for Boston, 5-to-1 odds for Atlanta, and 8-to-1 odds for Washington, DC The site last fall had also been heavily favoring Atlanta with 2-to-1 odds.

Amazon's decision to turn its hunt into something of a reality show contest has worked well for the tech company. Not only does the public nature of the competition have the cities trying to one-up each other on incentives and tax breaks, Amazon also doesn't have to manage leaks. After all, news of the competition would have likely come out anyway, so why not let it be a public spectacle and free press for Amazon?

The competition and the fervor surrounding it has even seeped into pop culture at this point. SNL did an Amazon HQ2-themed skit last weekend, with Alexa announcing the hopeful reps from various cities who came bearing gifts for CEO Jeff Bezos.

Sperling says his firm will put out more analysis about the HQ2 picks and predictions in the weeks ahead.


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