Amazon HQ2 to Philly Topic Statements

Problem Overview

From Amazon’s website and Request for Proposal (RFP):
"Amazon HQ2 will be Amazon’s second headquarters in North America. We expect to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs [new full-time employees with an average annual total compensation exceeding one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) over the next ten to fifteen years] it will be a full equal to our current campus in Seattle. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.”

The city of Philadelphia is a strong candidate in the competition for the location of Amazon’s new headquarters. Mayor Jim Kenney wants your help in building a solid argument for Philadelphia in one of four subtopics:
  1. Financial and tax incentives
  1. Talent base and employee life incentives
  1. Strategic tech-focused partnerships
  1. Current and new legal incentives

In this case, construct your argument and deliverables as if you were Philadelphia City Hall pitching to Amazon. Each subtopic enables your team to dive deep not only into Philadelphia’s past and current environment, but also to what is possible in the future. While many others have their own shortlists of top cities, we want you to use your creativity to pitch new ideas and standards that Philadelphia can implement to convince Amazon to relocate here. Use the links throughout this entire document as references to help jumpstart your analysis. We also highly recommend your team read through the entire Request for Proposal from Amazon.


Breakdown of subtopics:

  1. Financial and tax incentives
Large companies must pay attention to the bottom line when investing in something as big as a new headquarters. Not only does building the physical campus and attracting talent cost large sums, but subsequent taxes and long term financial effects have to be taken into account. Research has shown that the relocation of headquarters affects both a company’s stock price and operational performance. Your job is to analyze the impact Philadelphia’s current financial and tax structures would have on Amazon and propose new financial incentives that would attract it. 

  1. Talent base and employee life incentives
A company is only as good as its workers: for a company to organically retain workers, it must have access to top talent. Understanding the composition of the workforce in an area is crucial when a company is looking to relocate. Large hubs of talent, such as universities, are among the conditions that make for an ideal location for employees and play a key role in a company’s decision to expand. Your job is to analyze Philadelphia’s educational programs, labor composition, and culture all of which might aid Amazon in recruiting employees and increase its capacity for development and propose new ways to build them up for Amazon and the city overall.

  1. Strategic tech-focused partnerships
Philadelphia is home to a rich economic scene. Not only does the city host Fortune 500 companies such as Comcast and Aramark, it also fosters a growing startup scene. Amazon has previously partnered up with Comcast and can benefit from more partnerships from local businesses. Your job is to analyze past and current partnerships and propose new ones that would further both parties’ technologies and long-term goals. 

  1. Current and new legal incentives
Building a new headquarters for 50,000 workers is a huge ordeal that requires a lot of legal diligence on labor and relocation laws. Philadelphia is a strongly unionized city with a set of rules that may differ from unions elsewhere. In addition, there are laws around building codes and sustainability that all businesses must adhere to. Your job is to analyze the impact of these relevant laws in Philadelphia on Amazon and to propose changes to existing laws or draft new laws that would incentivize the company to come to Philadelphia.


Background Information (from the RFP)

“Amazon estimates its investments in Seattle from 2010 through 2016 resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city’s economy every dollar invested by Amazon in Seattle generated an additional $1.40 for the city’s economy overall.
Amazon is guided by four principles: 
  1. Customer obsession rather than competitor focus
  1. Passion for invention
  1. Commitment to operational excellence
  1. Long-term thinking

In choosing the location for HQ2, Amazon has a preference for: 
  • Metropolitan areas with more than one million people 
  • A stable and business-friendly environment 
  • Urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent 
  • Communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options HQ2 could be, but does not have to be: 
  • An urban or downtown campus 
  • A similar layout to Amazon’s Seattle campus 
  • A development-prepped site. We want to encourage states/provinces and communities to think creatively for viable real estate options, while not negatively affecting our preferred timeline


Additional Resources