News / Halifax

Business prof on Halifax trying to land Amazon: 'Throw a hat into the ring'

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage has signalled the municipality would be putting together a bid for the Seattle-based company's HQ2.

In this June 16, 2014, file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos walks onstage for the launch of the new Amazon Fire Phone, in Seattle.

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Ted S. Warren / AP

In this June 16, 2014, file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos walks onstage for the launch of the new Amazon Fire Phone, in Seattle.

Landing a new Amazon headquarters in Halifax is a long shot, but a local business professor said it doesn’t hurt to try.

The Seattle-based e-commerce company put out a request for proposals last week inviting cities across North America to pitch a site for its second headquarters, “HQ2.” The company said HQ2 would employ 50,000 people at an average salary exceeding $100,000.

Amazon is looking for metropolitan areas of more than one million people, “stable and business-friendly” environments, locations with the potential to “attract and retain strong technical talent,” and a site of more than 500,000 square feet with direct access to mass transit.

Halifax Mayor Mike Savage tweeted last week, “#Halifax is on it: port, rail, air, talent, ambition,” and told CBC the municipality would put in a “wow bid” for HQ2.

“You’ve got to throw a hat into the ring, but I would think we’d be a bit of a long shot,” NSCC business professor Ed McHugh said in an interview.

McHugh said a bigger city would provide more of the type of employees Amazon is looking for, and many cities in Canada have “much stronger transit.”

Nevertheless, he thinks Halifax should submit a bid, if only for the politics.

“I think you throw your hat in the ring for optics,” McHugh said.

“From a political point of view, I think you have citizens who say, ‘Why wouldn’t you? Who knows?’”

Dartmouth Coun. Sam Austin said every city in North America is going after this contract, and it’s clear Halifax doesn’t qualify.

“It’s fun to dream, but it seems like a long shot,” he said.

Austin said he’ll weigh in full if the idea comes to council, but said, “there’s probably better places we can put the time and resources.”

“It doesn’t hurt to do some work, but I wouldn’t want to see a whole lot put into because I don’t think we’re really in the running based on what Amazon put out,” he said.

McHugh said at some point, the municipality does have to do a cost-benefit analysis.

“If you get into this game and all of the sudden you discover that it’s just going to cost way too much money for a low-probability win, then you pull back out at some point before you spend big dollars,” he said. “And then you explain to your citizens, ‘Look we tried, but the price tag is just out of our league.’”

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