News / Canada

Canadian cities reveal how they feel about losing bid for Amazon HQ2

Toronto is one of the shortlisted 20 candidates for the proposed second Amazon headquarters. Calgary, Halifax, Sault Ste. Marie did not make the cut.

In this Oct. 11, 2017, file photo, large spheres take shape in front of an existing Amazon building, behind, as new construction continues across the street in Seattle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Elaine Thompson, File

In this Oct. 11, 2017, file photo, large spheres take shape in front of an existing Amazon building, behind, as new construction continues across the street in Seattle. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Elaine Thompson, File

TORONTO — Amazon waded through 238 bids that included promises of hefty tax breaks and canoeing to work to narrow down a short list of some 20 candidates, including just one Canadian city — Toronto. Here's a look at what some of the other cities who placed bids had to say:

Calgary

In an effort to sway Amazon, Calgary emblazoned the sidewalks across from Amazon's current Seattle headquarters with messages including, "Hey Amazon. We'd change our name for you. Calmazon? Amagary? Love, Calgary ;)" and hung a 30-metre banner outside saying, "we're not saying we'd fight a bear for you, but we totally would." The same message ran in a full-page ad the city took out in the Seattle Times.

Alberta's Premier Rachel Notley said she had spoken with Amazon on Thursday and the company felt Calgary's bid was "particularly exciting."

"They actually said very, very good things about it and they said that they've got a whole new idea of Alberta and that Calgary did an excellent job," she said. 

"There's no question, it's unfortunate. It would have been great to have gotten that deal."

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Winnipeg

Winnipeg's bid included a humorous video starring football star Blue Bomber Obby Khan and Mayor Brian Bowman showing off the city's best features to Alexa, Amazon's voice-activated system.

When Economic Development Winnipeg heard it hadn't made Amazon's shortlist on Thursday it released a playful video featuring Alexa breaking the bad news to Khan. In the video, Khan cuts Alexa short and instead picks up his phone saying, "Hey Google, I would love to pick you up tomorrow at 10 a.m. at the airport."

Bowman said in an email that "the competition was fierce, but our bid positioned Winnipeg well for future opportunities." He added he was "optimistic Amazon and other companies took note and will keep Winnipeg in mind for future opportunities."

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Ottawa-Gatineau

Ottawa and Gatineau were offering Amazon space in the 120-acre stretch of waterfront lands that are poised for development, 15 minutes away from Ottawa's airport and close to policymakers.

Upon hearing the cities had failed to make the cut, Ottawa mayor Jim Watson and Gatineau mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin released a statement saying they were "disappointed," but "proud" of the way the cities "came together."

"Should Amazon HQ2 find a home in Toronto, there would likely be significant economic spinoffs for the Ottawa-Gatineau region, and we would welcome those opportunities," the mayors said.

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Vancouver

Vancouver's bid to host Amazon HQ2 focused on its proximity to the e-commerce giant's original headquarters in Seattle, a move Metro Vancouver chairman Greg Moore said may have put it at a disadvantage.

Moore said he was disappointed to hear Vancouver hadn't made the shortlist but described the experience as a learning opportunity.

"It emphasized the need for us as a region to be working together," Moore said. "Amazon won't be the last opportunity."

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson released a statement saying he was disappointed the city didn't make the short list.

"Vancouver offers much more than just an exceptional quality of life for our residents. Our city is home to a booming economy, fueled by Vancouver’s growth as an international tech hub with world-class talent."

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Halifax

Halifax rolled out a flashy website mirroring Amazon's fonts and buttons to claim that Halifax housing the headquarters would bring Amazon a savings of more than $10 billion over 10 years.

Mayor Mike Savage told The Canadian Press he was "not surprised" his city had lost out because he felt it was "always a long shot."

He said "I'm rooting for Mayor Tory and I hope that they do well" and vowed to hang a "Go Toronto" banner.

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Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie didn't splash out on a big proposal with lots of tax incentives or "wacky exercises" — though it did suggest employees could canoe to work — to attract attention for its bid because it knew it likely wouldn't land the headquarters, said Mayor Christian Provenzano.

"We were swinging for the fences on something we appreciated we did not have a significant opportunity at getting, but we thought it was important to tell our story about our community," he said.

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Edmonton

Edmonton refused to disclose the contents of its bid, even after it was cut from the potential cities to host the headquarters. However, a spokesperson revealed the city spent between $50,000 and $75,000 on its pitch.

Brad Ferguson, the president and CEO of the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation, said he was throwing his support behind Toronto, adding that with matters like this his philosophy is to root for his country, then his province and then his city. He wished Toronto well, but said he hadn't picked up the phone to extend his best wishes to Mayor John Tory because "I don't feel that is my role."

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Windsor

Windsor partnered with Detroit to make its pitch to Amazon, which Windsor's Mayor Drew Dilkens says spoke to the strong relationship the two cities have had for centuries. Months ago Dilkens said he would even be open to connecting twin offices in each city with a cable car or gondola.

Moving forward, he said he would be open to the pair teaming up again to court other big companies. "We believe the business case was so strong that we could take Amazon's name out of the proposal and make it equally compelling for someone else," Dilkens told the Canadian Press.

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Montreal

Many thought Montreal had a good chance at nabbing the headquarters because it is already home to Amazon Web Services' cluster of data services and its competitiveness in the hydro-electric power arena was a big draw for the tech company when it was searching for another home for its data facilities.

Montreal mayor Denis Coderre said in a statement that the city is "of course, disappointed" it won't host the headquarters, but glad that the process had allowed it "to build new relationships and to strengthen old ones with the private and public sectors as well as to reinforce Montreal's reputation as an international creative hub."

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Hamilton

Hamilton's bid for the headquarters reportedly cost almost $467,000. A statement from Mayor Fred Eisenberger said the investment it made in its pitch "a 50/50 split of public and private funds."

After it was passed on, Eisenberger stressed "our ambition will not waiver." He said Amazon "choosing to locate anywhere in Ontario is beneficial," so Hamilton was looking forward to working with Toronto "in whatever way we can to support their bid."

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