The proposal deadline has come and gone on Amazon’s unusually public search to plant a second headquarters in one of North America’s metropolitan areas. Among other factors, Amazon’s stated “preference” for candidates cities with a population over 1 million should have whittled possible HQ2 locales down to a few dozen. Instead, the final tally of hopefuls topped 200.
Publicity stunts aimed at attracting Amazon’s attention—or just reminding news stations that places like Frisco, Texas exist at all—ranged from the gift of a monstrous cactus, to the promise (threat?) to rename an entire town after Bezos’s sprawling corporation. To describe this embarrassing race to the bottom as a circus would be an insult to the composure and restraint exhibited by the storied institution of sideshow entertainment.
Public displays of corporate fealty weren’t just limited to podunk towns either. Last week, New York City’s mayor Bill de Blasio lit up the Empire State Building “Amazon orange”—shortly after bemoaning the ecommerce giant’s destructive effects on local communities.
Amazon, which has received over $1 billion in state and local subsidies according to watchdog group Good Jobs First, normally conducts this sort of location-scouting for data centers, warehouses, fulfillment centers and the like in secret. By holding the auction for HQ2 publicly, the company was likely able to pressure cities into competing to give Amazon better write-offs, subsidies, or tax breaks to an even greater degree. The company has not said what range of financial incentives it has been offered, or even where the 238 proposals came from.