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The South Florida Roundup

Does Miami Have A Chance To Host Amazon HQ2?

Jeff Bezos graduated from Miami Palmetto Senior High School in 1982.

Miami is still in the race. This week Amazon announced the 20 cities on its short list as it decides where to build its second headquarters (HQ2) – a $5-billion investment promising 50,000 high-paying jobs.

Though the final list singles out Miami, the proposal was a regional effort. 

“The application came from Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade working together,” says Jim Murley, chief resilience officer for Miami-Dade County. “That’s really a breakthrough It reflects opportunities in all three counties and they’re [Amazon] just saying, we’re a great place to live and work, come to South Florida.”

Read more: Amazon Names Miami A Finalist For Second Headquarters

The odds for winning the top prize? An Irish online bookmaker gave South Florida 20-1. That puts Miami in the group with the longest odds of winning.

On The Florida Roundup, WLRN’s Tom Hudson and Kate Stein, who covers the environment and transportation, bet on the odds with Ben Fox Rubin, a senior reporter on Amazon for CNET, and Patrick Clark, a business reporter for Bloomberg.


WLRN: Ben Fox Rubin, what is Amazon looking for and what are the 20 cities have in common that made the shortlist this week?

RUBIN:Amazon is looking for a metro area with over a million people, a stable business-friendly environment that can attract strong technical talent. Basically, in many ways, it has outgrown its home of Seattle and is looking to find somewhere where it can hire 50,000 people so that it can continue growing. 

 Patrick Clark, what set the 20 cities that made the shortlist this week apart? 

CLARK: There's, you know, there's a little bit of everything on this list, right? You've got three bids from the Washington D.C. area where Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has put down some roots. You've got two in the New York City area where I am. But you've got Middle America represented. You've got Texas, and of course, you've got Miami, which is in the sort of opposite geographical corner. 

 Certainly opposite from Seattle. Jeff Bezos also went to high school here at Palmetto High School in Miami-Dade County. Kate Stein, what sets Miami apart and what are the challenges that Miami is going to have with this list of 19 others? 

STEIN:What sets Miami apart is certainly its status as an international tourist destination. And as far as business from South America and the Caribbean – Miami is called the capital. Another thing that's really important in Miami's application is throughout South Florida there are a lot of people who are working on taking a sort of holistic view of regional challenges – things like transportation and sea-level rise – and addressing those challenges but also using them as a starting point for innovation and for business development and for some of the creative thinking that could happen in universities and with different public-private partnerships here. And I think that's something that could really be a strength for our region as well. 

BEN Fox Rubin with CNET, this is a little bit of a unique place. And what I mean by that is Amazon going public with this request for proposals and this kind of public horse race, what is actually at stake for these communities, some of whom have offered billions of dollars of tax incentives for Amazon to come to their place? 

RUBIN: A lot of these applicants were super interested in bringing Amazon because of the cache of potentially having a major headquarters for a major tech company. It could bring tens of thousands of jobs, an enormous amount of investment. It's also important to really recognize the fact that all that investment comes with certain caveats. Exactly how much are they actually going to be paying for? For instance, Newark, New Jersey plans on paying $7 billion in incentives if they do in fact end up getting Amazon to come and build over there. Traffic is also a concern. Higher rents are also a concern. These are all issues that Seattle has grappled with as Amazon has quickly grown there, and it's something that any of these communities would have to consider as well. 

Patrick, how does it stack up as you look at these 20 communities and what we know about the offer? Some of it's public; some of it's not. How does South Florida stack up?

CLARK: Your guess is as good as the Irish bookmakers. 

You're going to go 20-1, Patrick.

CLARK: Who knows, right? There certainly have been cities that have been talked about more and you know as we all kind of play this parlor game together. You start to see interest coalesce or the feeling that some cities have advantages that are stronger than others. I saw an informal Twitter poll yesterday by the economist Jed Kolko who works at Indeed.com. I think that his followers said that Miami was the biggest surprise of the 20 on the very long short list. But I don't know if that means anything.

 WLRN: Even to some folks in South Florida, it was a surprise as well.

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Tom Hudson is WLRN's Senior Economics Editor and Special Correspondent.