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As Amazon's deadline for HQ2 bids closes, speculation on winner heats up

Matt Day, The Seattle Times on

Published in Home and Consumer News

SEATTLE -- In the six weeks since Amazon said it was seeking a site for a second headquarters, cities have preened. They've sent delegations to Seattle, bragged about their university engineering programs and tried to ship cactuses to Jeff Bezos.

Thursday evening, the curtain will close on the first act of Amazon's civic beauty pageant.

Midnight Pacific time is the deadline that the Seattle retail giant has set for interested cities to submit their bids for a second headquarters. The company has said it hopes to staff its so-called HQ2 with up to 50,000 people, and spend $5 billion over a decade building the corporate campus.

But as the deadline ends the initial bidding frenzy, speculation over whom the winner will be will heat up.

The company's HQ2 proposal has drawn more than 150 declared bidders, and likely even more who haven't gone public with their intentions. Some weren't waiting until the last minute to make their filings. Chicago, the state of Minnesota, and Tacoma, Wash., were among those who had submitted their responses by Wednesday afternoon.

The company says it plans to make a final decision next year, but it has been mum on its specific plans for narrowing down and ultimately selecting candidates. It's unclear whether Amazon will disclose the identities, or even a tally of its bidders.

Amazon has, however, detailed its wish list of amenities for a second home -- perks like a highly educated workforce and a place with a flexible transportation network.

Jeff Wilke, CEO of Amazon's worldwide consumer business and a member of the committee that will decide where HQ2 will be located, added a bit of detail that goes beyond Amazon's public request. In comments at a conference hosted by technology news site GeekWire last week, he said he hoped the company would choose a spot with public schools with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Some had speculated that Wilke's biographical details or those of Amazon's other executives might give clues to who would win HQ2, whether it was Wilke's roots in Pittsburgh, CEO Bezos' homes in California, Texas and Washington, D.C., or the connections of many top Amazon executives to colleges in the Northeast.

Amazon says it doesn't have a set of candidates in mind. It also denies that heartstrings will play a role in its decision.

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