Richard Florida speaking at the 2018 Cascadia Innovation Corridor Conference in Vancouver, B.C. (Cascadia Innovation Corridor Photo / Matt Borck)
In many ways, reports that Amazon will split its ballyhooed second headquarters between two cities came as a shock this week. But the change of plans actually fits one narrative that urbanists have claimed was always the real story behind Amazon HQ2.
“It never was about a second headquarters,” said Richard Florida, one of the most visible urbanist thought leaders. Florida is a University of Toronto professor and its director of cities, as well as co-founder and editor-at-large for The Atlantic’s CityLab.
Florida claimed early on that Amazon’s very public search for a second headquarters was really about creating a “large-scale, crowdsourced corporate locational strategy.”
In other words, Amazon leveraged the $5 billion corporate headquarters and 50,000 high-paying jobs to get cities to hand over comprehensive data about potential locations for future, smaller Amazon sites.
“It wouldn’t surprise me to hear, in coming months, ‘We’re going to put a Latin American headquarters in Miami. We’re going to put a major artificial intelligence and self-driving vehicle facility in Pittsburgh. We’re going to create major distribution and logistics hubs in Nashville or Columbus or Indianapolis. We’re going to put a major North American facility in Canada, Toronto,’” Florida said in an interview with GeekWire Tuesday. “I think this was always about sourcing, siting much more than just a single headquarters.”
On Monday, The New York Times reported that Amazon is closing in on deals to split its second headquarters across the New York City and Washington D.C. areas. It followed an earlier report from The Wall Street Journal that Amazon was in final discussions with Northern Virginia, Dallas, and New York City.
GeekWire caught up with Florida — who has been active on Twitter discussing …read more