Amazon HQ2: Chicago among top 20 cities for second HQ

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Amazon narrowed its list of cities under consideration for its second headquarters to 20 locations Thursday morning. Chicago made the cut. (WLS)

Amazon narrowed its list of cities under consideration for its second headquarters to 20 locations Thursday morning. That list includes Chicago.

Amazon officials said they reviewed 238 proposals from the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Only 20 cities made the cut:

- Atlanta, GA
- Austin, TX
- Boston, MA
- Chicago, IL
- Columbus, OH
- Dallas, TX
- Denver, CO
- Indianapolis, IN
- Los Angeles, CA
- Miami, FL
- Montgomery County, MD
- Nashville, TN
- Newark, NJ
- New York City, NY
- Northern Virginia, VA
- Philadelphia, PA
- Pittsburgh, PA
- Raleigh, NC
- Toronto, ON
- Washington D.C.

The company's announcement last fall that it was looking for a second home launched a fierce competition among cities looking to lure Amazon and its promise of 50,000 new jobs and construction spending of more than $5 billion.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other city leaders have been pushing for the new location to be built in the Windy City. Illinois also offered the online retailer more than $2 billion in financial incentives.

"To New York and all the other cities competing, Chicago's coming after you," the mayor said with a smile at an event late Thursday morning.

Governor Bruce Rauner agrees that Chicago has a very attractive case, but he pointed out what he sees as a big negative.

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Amazon narrowed its list of cities under consideration for its second headquarters to 20 locations Thursday morning. Chicago made the cut.

"We have what Amazon is looking for, but keep in mind Jeff Bezos knows how high taxes are," said Rauner.

"Seattle home values have nearly doubled over the past five or six years along with amazon's growth, rents have gone up by 50 percent," said Aaron Terrazas, a senior economist at Zillow.

Chicago focused its bid on the region's qualified workforce, along with access to transportation and affordable living. City officials have touted 10 potential locations in the area, including one at the Finkl Steel plant along the Chicago River, another is the Old Post Office over Congress Parkway and another that includes space in the Willis Tower. City officials are keeping their bid's details, like possible tax incentives, quiet.

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Chicago made Amazon's HQ2 short list.

The mayor's office released this statement Thursday morning:

"Today's news makes clear that Amazon recognizes Chicago's great strengths - access to talent, transportation, higher education, affordability and quality of life, which are the keys to growth and prosperity. As companies including GE Healthcare, ConAgra and McDonalds have concluded, Chicago offers unparalleled opportunities, and we are going to continue to work as a region to make the case to Amazon that Chicago is the ideal location for HQ2. We are prepared to compete at the next level and the next level after that."

Chicago is also said to be in the running for two other tech giants. Google and Apple are both in the market for a second campus, which would include thousands of jobs. Apple has already announced they will not locate in California or Texas.

Indianapolis made the Top 20, while the city of Gary's did not.

The mayors of Indianapolis and the suburban city of Fishers announced in September they would collaborate on an Amazon proposal, emphasizing the area's current tech business community. City and state officials haven't released proposal details.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a statement the city is already a big winner by making Amazon's short list.

Gary officials touted its proximity to Chicago along with offering Amazon a chance to transform the long-struggling city.

Amazon expects to make a decision on where to build HQ2 in 2018.

The company had stipulated that it was seeking to be near a metropolitan area with more than a million people; be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand that headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade. But Amazon also made it very clear that it wanted tax breaks, grants and any other incentives.

Some state and local governments have made public the details of the financial incentives they are dangling. New Jersey's pitch contains $7 billion in tax breaks and Boston's offer includes $75 million for affordable housing for Amazon employees and others.

But many of the state and local governments competing for the headquarters have refused to disclose the tax breaks or other financial incentives they offered. More than 15 states and cities turned down requests from The Associated Press to detail the promises they've made. Several say they don't want their competitors to know what they're offering, a stance that open-government advocates criticized.

Amazon plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters and the second home base will be "a full equal" to it, founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had said.

The extra space will help the rapidly-growing company, which It had nearly 542,000 employees at the end of September, a 77 percent jump from the year before. Some of that growth came from Amazon's nearly $14 billion acquisition last year of natural foods grocer Whole Foods and its 89,000 employees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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