By Brad Tuttle
March 6, 2018

HQ2 in D.C.? More and more, signs indicate that Seattle-based tech giant Amazon will choose the Washington, D.C., area for its much-hyped second headquarters, dubbed by Amazon as “HQ2.”

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos obviously loves Washington, D.C. Bezos—the world’s richest man, with a net worth over $120 billion lately—is the owner of the Washington Post and last year bought a 27,000-square-foot former museum in the city to make into a second home.

Now it’s looking like Bezos could be spending even more time in the nation’s capital, as the Washington, D.C., metro area is increasingly looking like the frontrunner to land Amazon’s second headquarters—and the 50,000 high-paying jobs that come with it.

The Washington Post reported that last week Amazon representatives met with local officials and toured several possible development sites in northern Virginia, Montgomery Country, Maryland, and the District itself. The three areas were among the 20 finalists in North America Amazon named as HQ2 contenders in early 2018.

Each finalist is presenting Amazon with an HQ2 proposal, and many of them include billions of dollars in tax breaks and infrastructure improvements as a means to win over Amazon’s favor. For example, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan has “proposed a $5 billion incentive package to lure the firm, while D.C. and Virginia officials have made their own lucrative offers that they have not disclosed,” the Washington Post reported.

Previously, oddsmakers have named Atlanta or Boston as having the best chances of winding up as host to Amazon’s second headquarters. But the D.C. area has always been right in the mix of favorites to land HQ2.

What’s more, Atlanta may have had its chances of landing HQ2 hurt badly last week, when the Georgia legislature removed a tax exemption for Delta Air Lines as retaliation for the airline’s decision to end a discount program for NRA members. Georgia has also passed legislation recently that critics say will discriminate against same-sex couples who want to adopt children or be foster parents.

Experts say that Amazon has a generally progressive corporate culture, and that Amazon and Bezos have taken stances on social issues in the past. In turn, Atlanta’s odds to be picked by Amazon have been damaged by the state’s recent moves. “Georgia has really hurt their Amazon bids in recent weeks,” Nathan Jensen, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said on CNN.

Another indication that the Washington, D.C., area is emerging as the HQ2 frontrunner is that Amazon employees are apparently paying more attention to this part of the country. The local news site ARLNow.com, which focuses on Arlington Country, Virginia, noted that a story it published in December about an environmental award given to the county surprisingly surfaced as one of its most-viewed posts during a week in mid-February. And the vast majority of web traffic stemmed from an internal Amazon.com link page about the search for HQ2.

Amazon, which is notoriously tight-lipped about almost everything it does, has been characteristically quiet about its HQ2 reconnaissance missions. Amazon officials are “visiting the cities, and they’re not doing it with a lot of fanfare,” said John Tory, the Mayor of Toronto, which is the lone non-U.S. city among the 20 HQ2 finalists. “They’re visiting the cities that are on the shortlist and they are asking for more details of the things that were contained in the bid books and they’re going about a very methodical process of making their selection.”

In response to rumors about where HQ2 might ultimately wind up, a statement released by Amazon says simply: “Amazon is working with each HQ2 candidate city to dive deeper on their proposals and share additional information about the company’s plans. We’re excited to visit each location and talk about how HQ2 could benefit our employees and the local community.”

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