Left off Amazon’s list of finalists for its second headquarters, Utah figures its population was too small

(Courtesy of the City of Virginia Beach | The Associated Press) This image provided by the City of Virginia Beach, Va., shows a sand sculpture the city is using to promote its application to become Amazon's second headquarters.

Amazon.com has released a list of 20 regions in the United States and Canada that the online retail giant is considering as possible sites for its second headquarters.

Utah is not on it.

The list, released Thursday, includes major metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, Dallas and Atlanta, as well as smaller communities including Pittsburgh, Raleigh and Nashville. All are larger than Salt Lake City.

“When we looked at the cities they selected,” said Val Hale, executive director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, “it was obvious there were two things we were missing.”

“Number one, we didn’t have enough population. We would have been the smallest candidate. Number two, only two of the cities — Denver and Los Angeles — were west of the mountain time zone,” he added. “It looks like [Amazon] is really focusing on the East Coast or farther from its headquarters on the West Coast.”

The nation’s capital is heavily represented in the list, with D.C., northern Virginia and the Maryland suburb of Montgomery County also making the cut.

Amazon has said it is seeking an international hub with strong educational institutions and high quality of life that can support as many as 50,000 future employees. The company projects that it may need as many as 8 million square feet of space to house its new offices. (Amazon chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)

Hale said he always knew Utah’s bid was a longshot, “but we were hopeful we’d make the Top 10 or at least the first cut,” he said. “We knew our weakness was our lack of population. When you’re talking 50,000 jobs, that’s a lot for a community our size. We thought we could do it, but we knew it would be a challenge.”

Hale said he had a conversation Thursday morning with Amazon officials who said they were impressed with the state’s bid, leaving him hopeful Utah had a shot at future Amazon projects.

And the proposal was so solid and packed with data, Hale said, that it will be useful in sales pitches to other tech companies to call Utah home. “Scratch off Amazon and put any other name on it,” he said.

Amazon’s announcement in September that it was looking for a location for a second headquarters set off a flurry of activity among cities and communities nationwide.

Driven by Amazon’s promise of economic growth, local leaders in areas ranging from Connecticut to Oklahoma vied to host the company, which is currently based in Seattle. In its detailed request for proposals, Amazon said that its presence in Seattle had contributed roughly $38 billion to the city’s economy over six years.

Amazon’s search process raised difficult questions about the influence of large tech giants on cities and the possible unintended consequences of giving tax breaks and other benefits to an already successful corporate titan. Some Seattle residents have said Amazon’s growth put strain on the city’s transportation infrastructure and has contributed to a dramatic spike in housing costs — affecting low-income residents and favoring the tech elite.

Still, the release of the list prompted celebrations from some local politicians.

“Thx to all who put in hard work to get us here. Let’s close the deal and bring it home!” tweeted former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe.

“Honored and excited to be included on @amazon’s list of finalists for #AmazonHQ2,” tweeted the city of Raleigh. “Proof that you don’t need to live here to know it’s an amazing place to call home.”

In a statement, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the list showed Washington “is no longer a one-company government town” but a “leader in innovation and tech.”

Should Amazon select from the three D.C.-area contenders, the entire region could see a boost, according to urban planning experts. The economic relationships among northern Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia could prompt Amazon employees to settle in Washington, for example, even if their commutes take them to the immediate suburbs.

“D.C. might stand to be a big beneficiary, even if Arlington (Va.) gets the ultimate nod,” said Harriet Tregoning, a former planning and development official at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Amazon said it now expects to hold discussions with the remaining metro areas to “keep exploring opportunities.” It declined to say when the company may make a final decision.

Here is a complete list of the areas Amazon is weighing:









Los Angeles


Montgomery County, Md.



New York

Northern Virginia





Washington, D.C.

The Salt Lake Tribune contributed to this article.

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