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Amazon.com Inc. has selected two major U.S. East Coast cities that offered more than US$2-billion in incentives for massive new offices, ending 14 months of global speculation over where one of the world’s most valuable companies will put down new roots – and passing over lone Canadian contender Toronto.

The e-commerce platform and cloud-services provider said on Tuesday that it would split its long-anticipated “HQ2” head-office expansion between the borough of Queens in New York City and a Northern Virginia suburb of Washington, promising 25,000 jobs and US$2.5-billion in investment for both, alongside an “operations center of excellence” in Nashville that would host 5,000 employees.

“These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come,” Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said in a statement. The company declined an interview request.

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A sea gull flies off with a scrap of fish near what used to be a dock facility on Long Island in New York on Nov. 13, 2018. Amazon announced Tuesday it has selected the Queens borough neighbourhood as one of two sites for its second headquarters.

Bebeto Matthews

Despite not winning HQ2, the business and political leaders who put Toronto’s proposal together said the effort drew global attention to the city and its tech community. Toronto’s bid, which did not include financial incentives, highlighted the city’s diversity, the region’s abundance of skilled workers, and potential cost savings through lower salaries and Canadian health care. Unlike some of the 238 original bidders, such as Montreal, Toronto made its bid fully public.

Related: Canadian tech companies, desperately seeking talent

Hopes dim for Toronto’s Amazon HQ2 bid as reports of U.S. frontrunners emerge

The regional investment agency Toronto Global, which spearheaded the bid, estimates that Toronto’s submission generated equivalent awareness of the city worth $143-million in advertising spending. Its chief executive, Mr. Lennox, said in an interview that the investment agency now has more than 250 companies looking at the city as a result of the HQ2 process. As such, he believes the process was a success: It drew international attention to the city without offering exclusive incentives to the massive company.

“Can you imagine,” Mr. Lennox said, what the reaction would have been like if governments offered billions in tax breaks “to a company that patently doesn’t need it? What does that say to every other company that made investments in the Toronto region, and to the domestic industry? It’s a race to the bottom.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory said that despite his city being passed over, the HQ2 competition alone yielded benefits, with the bid document downloaded 17,000 times, many by prospective suitors. “Right now, Toronto is a beacon for investment, for smart people and for global companies,” the mayor said. Former Toronto councillor Michelle Holland, who as “innovation chief” under Mr. Tory last term helped brand the city as a tech destination, including through the bid, said that “though we didn’t win Amazon, I think there’s going to be other major companies to look forward to Toronto to locate.”

amazon nation

Across Canada, Amazon has created more than

7,000 full-time jobs, from its customer fulfill

ment facilities in Ontario, British Columbia and

Alberta to the AWS infrastructure region in the

Montreal area to the company’s Vancouver and

Toronto Tech Hubs.

Calgary

Vancouver

Winnipeg

Montreal

Ottawa

Toronto

Amazon’s workforce

Global

575,000

Canada*

12,100

( 5,400 disclosed 6,700 promised)

*Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec

Amazon centres in Canada

Site

Square footage

Jobs

1,000 disclosed

4,000 promised

Vancouver

Undisclosed

Corporate offices

New Westminster,

B.C.

450,000+

Combined 800

Fulfillment Centre

Delta, B.C.

190,000+

Fulfillment Centre

Tsawwassen First

Nations, Deltaport,

B.C.

700 (in 2019)

450,000

Fulfillment Centre

1,000+

Calgary

600,000

Fulfillment Centre

Winnipeg

Undisclosed

Undisclosed

AWS Thinkbox

600+

Toronto

Undisclosed

Tech Hub

Mississauga, Ont.

500,000

Fulfillment Centre

Combined 2,000

Milton, Ont.

375,000

Fulfillment Centre

Brampton, Ont.

500,000

Fulfillment Centre

Brampton, Ont.

850,000

Fulfillment Centre

600 (in 2019)

Carlsbad Spr., Ont.

1,000,000

Fulfillment Centre

1,400 (in 2019)

Caledon, Ont.

1,000,000

Fulfillment Centre

Montreal

Undisclosed

Undisclosed

AWS Canada

(Central)

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: amazon

amazon nation

Across Canada, Amazon has created more than 7,000

full-time jobs, from its customer fulfillment facilities in

Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta to the AWS infra-

structure region in the Montreal area to the company’s

Vancouver and Toronto Tech Hubs.

Calgary

Vancouver

Winnipeg

Montreal

Ottawa

Toronto

Amazon’s work force

Global

575,000

Canada*

12,100

( 5,400 disclosed 6,700 promised)

*Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec

Amazon centres in Canada

Site

Square footage

Jobs

1,000 disclosed

4,000 promised

Vancouver

Undisclosed

Corporate offices

New Westminster,

B.C.

450,000+

Combined 800

Fulfillment Centre

Delta, B.C.

190,000+

Fulfillment Centre

Tsawwassen First

Nations, Deltaport,

B.C.

700 (in 2019)

450,000

Fulfillment Centre

1,000+

Calgary

600,000

Fulfillment Centre

Winnipeg

Undisclosed

Undisclosed

AWS Thinkbox

600+

Toronto

Undisclosed

Tech Hub

Mississauga, Ont.

500,000

Fulfillment Centre

Combined 2,000

Milton, Ont.

375,000

Fulfillment Centre

Brampton, Ont.

500,000

Fulfillment Centre

Brampton, Ont.

850,000

Fulfillment Centre

600 (in 2019)

Carlsbad Spr., Ont.

1,000,000

Fulfillment Centre

1,400 (in 2019)

Caledon, Ont.

1,000,000

Fulfillment Centre

Montreal

Undisclosed

Undisclosed

AWS Canada

(Central)

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: amazon

amazon nation

Across Canada, Amazon has created more than 7,000 full-time jobs, from its cus

tomer fulfillment facilities in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta to the AWS

infrastructure region in the Montreal area to the company’s Vancouver and

Toronto Tech Hubs.

Calgary

Winnipeg

Vancouver

Montreal

Ottawa

Toronto

Amazon’s work force

Global

575,000

Canada*

12,100

( 5,400 disclosed 6,700 promised)

*Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec

Amazon centres in Canada

Site

Square footage

Jobs

1,000 disclosed

4,000 promised

Vancouver

Undisclosed

Corporate offices

New Westminster, B.C.

450,000+

Fulfillment Centre

Combined 800

190,000+

Delta, B.C.

Fulfillment Centre

700 (in 2019)

Tsawwassen First

Nations, Deltaport , B.C.

450,000

Fulfillment Centre

1,000+

Calgary

600,000

Fulfillment Centre

Winnipeg

Undisclosed

Undisclosed

AWS Thinkbox

600+

Toronto

Undisclosed

Tech Hub

Mississauga, Ont.

500,000

Fulfillment Centre

Combined 2,000

Milton, Ont.

375,000

Fulfillment Centre

Brampton, Ont.

500,000

Fulfillment Centre

Brampton, Ont.

850,000

Fulfillment Centre

600 (in 2019)

Carlsbad Springs, Ont.

1,000,000

Fulfillment Centre

1,400 (in 2019)

Caledon, Ont.

Fulfillment Centre

1,000,000

Montreal

Undisclosed

Undisclosed

AWS Canada (Central)

JOHN SOPINSKI/THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: amazon

Toronto was widely considered an unlikely candidate in the months leading up to the decision, in part because of the lack of proposed tax breaks. (Amazon described economic incentives as “one factor” in its decision but said “attracting top talent was the leading driver.”) “We held true to what I think is clearly the right position,” Ed Clark, the former TD Bank chief who helped lead Toronto’s proposal, said in a phone interview. “The only case I might have been disappointed is if there was a city that won with no incentives.”

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As the HQ2 quest wound down this month, experts such as the urbanist Richard Florida and the anti-monopoly advocate Stacy Mitchell began describing it as a quest for data that could help Amazon plan future expansions for maximum profit. While Toronto’s proposal was made public, many bidders kept theirs in the dark (declining or heavily redacting Freedom of Information requests), leaving Amazon with reams of exclusive information – concerning talent, real estate and what kinds of financial incentives were available to the company.

“They crowd-sourced information on sites, on local work force development programs, on local talent pools, on local incentives – I think this is just the beginning of the announcement,” said Mr. Florida, director of cities at the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with giving information or doing the dance with a company like Amazon. You just have to tell the taxpayers what you’re doing.”

For some tech leaders already struggling with a talent shortage in Toronto and the broader region – the proposal’s municipalities extended as far as Kitchener-Waterloo – the long-speculated Toronto HQ2 loss came as a relief.

“Every ecosystem has to balance how to use tech talent, divided between startups and big tech companies," said Michele Romanow, the Dragons' Den star and co-founder and president of alternative-financing company Clearbanc, which just raised US$70-million. “If there’s too many big companies you’re not going to have Canadian growth, because we need our own startups to become big employers here.”

Others saw it as a loss. “I think it would have stimulated a lot of additional startups,” said Rob Mionis, CEO of Celestica Inc., the Toronto-based multinational engineering and manufacturing firm.

Jim Balsillie, the chair of the Council of Canadian Innovators and the former co-chief executive of Research in Motion – now BlackBerry – said he saw the HQ2 bid process as a missed opportunity to involve Canadians already deeply involved in tech.

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“The bid was done without any economic study to show the impact on our tech ecosystem, without consultation with domestic high-growth companies and without involving any innovation economy experts," Mr. Balsillie said in an e-mail. "But as is often the case for Canada’s faux innovation strategies, it was led by people without any experience in commercializing ideas, let alone the innovation economy, again confusing an innovation strategy with a cheap-jobs branch-plant strategy.”

Danielle Keenan, a spokesperson for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada said that the federal government “will continue to work to create jobs and opportunities” for tech talent and companies across Toronto and Canada, though “we would have preferred to see Amazon join Toronto’s world-leading technology economy” with a second headquarters there.

Amazon employs more than 7,000 people across Canada, with more than 6,000 additional jobs promised soon.

With a report from Jeff Gray

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