2 kinds of cities made list of finalists for Amazon HQ2

What will be the chief “decider” for Amazon: big-city amenities or politics and money?

The list of 20 finalists for Amazon’s second headquarters — “full equal” to Seattle, with 50,000 jobs and $5 billion investment — was released Thursday.

They are: Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Boston; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Miami; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville; Newark, N.J.; New York; Northern Virginia; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Raleigh, N.C.; Toronto; and Washington, D.C.

With no insider knowledge, I had speculated that the shortlist would include Denver, Dallas, Atlanta, Boston, NYC, D.C., Pittsburgh and Toronto — all are in the running. This indicates Amazon was being honest in what it was seeking for an ideal second home. If the company builds a car-dependent office “park” outside Columbus — never mind.

Candidates in one category here have the goods. What I mean is that they have large high-skilled tech work forces, world-class research universities, major international airports, decent-to-good transit and urban centers (or closeness to them) that appeal to the most talented people. Urban density or proximity to it is also important to innovative “creative friction,” where workers can mingle and share ideas. This certainly applies to Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, LA, the counties around D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Washington, D.C.

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The nation’s capital and surrounding counties connected by rail transit may be especially appealing because of Amazon Web Services‘ many government cloud-computing contracts, as well as the ability to lobby at close range for favorable federal treatment.

The second group of finalists, while its members have one or more of those assets, seems primarily chosen because most could provide Amazon some red-state cred. Also because the states and…

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