Microsoft is planning a new, $570 million Canadian headquarters in Toronto, GeekWire reported last week, becoming the latest in a series of major US tech companies to announce large-scale investments in Canada:
The Redmond, Wash., software giant announced plans to build a massive new Canadian headquarters in Toronto, promising to invest $570 million in the facility. Microsoft expects to move into the new facility, located at 81 Bay Street, in Sept. 2020. The company will relocate its current Canadian headquarters and several other offices, dispersed through the country, to the new headquarters.
Toronto is having a bit of a moment on the global tech stage. Google sister company Sidewalk Labs is developing a plan to create an innovation district on the Toronto waterfront as a proof-of-concept for technologists who believe they can improve urban planning. Google plans to relocate its Canadian headquarters to Toronto as part of that initiative.
The very next day, Uber also revealed plans for a new Toronto office, announcing that it would spend around $154 million to build a new engineering hub there, doubling its Toronto-based tech workforce to around 500 employees. The ride-sharing startup will also be expanding its self-driving car operations there. These latest moves will further boost Toronto’s profile as one of Canada’s leading tech hubs, particularly for emerging technologies like artificial intelligence. Major tech companies have been investing in Canada at a steady clip over the past year, also including Salesforce, Alphabet’s DeepMind unit, and Facebook. Toronto is also the only non-US finalist for Amazon’s second North American headquarters.
When Amazon announced that it was soliciting bids for a venue for its second North American headquarters last month, cities across the continent immediately began lining up to court the e-tail giant with offers of tax credits, expedited permitting, public transit projects, and even cash grants. The deadline for bids was last Thursday, October 19, and Amazon revealed on Monday that 238 cities had submitted proposals, representing 54 states, provinces, and territories across the US, Canada, and Mexico. Monica Nickelsburg has the story at GeekWire:
In the U.S., there are only seven states where no cities are bidding on HQ2: Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Arkansas, Vermont, and Hawaii. … Even Amazon’s hometown, Seattle, made a hail mary attempt to get the tech titan to keep HQ2 close to home. …
Amazon did include some glimpses into the criteria it will use to judge proposals; the company is looking for a metro area with more than 1 million people, quality transit options, and incentives from local governments. Those could come in the form of tax credits and exemptions, relocation and workforce grants, utility incentives, and fee reductions, Amazon says. The company is also encouraging communities to “think big and creatively” in their proposals. With so many hats in the ring, creativity may be the criterion that puts one city over the top.
It’s no wonder so many cities are desperate to win Amazon’s favor here, as Amazon expects “HQ2” to create 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investments in the winning metropolis. Recode’s Jason Del Rey takes note of who participated in the bidding war, as well as who didn’t:
It wasn’t long ago that trend spotters were declaring the suburban office park of late-20th-century fame dead and gone. With talent, especially millennial talent, more concentrated in urban centers and less willing to move out of them for job opportunities, suburban corporate campuses are increasingly considered obsolete. This trend was reflected in some high-profile relocations of corporate headquarters last year, such as GE’s move from Fairfield, Connecticut to downtown Boston and McDonald’s move from Oak Brook, Illinois, to central Chicago.
But don’t write off the suburbs just yet, Patrick Clark and Rebecca Greenfield write for Bloomberg. As those millennials get older and look to settle down and start families, jobs in the suburbs are becoming cool again—as long as they maintain some of what this generation values most about city life, like walkability and public transit:
Fresh college graduates might be attracted to downtown bars and carless commutes, but these days, for older millennials starting families and taking out mortgages, a job in the suburbs has its own appeal. “What people find is that the city offers a high quality of life at the income extremes,” says Lamphere, who is chief executive of Van Vlissingen & Co., a real-estate developer based in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnshire, Ill. “The city is a difficult place for the average working family.”
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Amazon announced on Thursday that it would begin soliciting bids from North American cities to become the site of its second headquarters, a campus that could draw over $5 billion in investment and create as many as 50,000 jobs, the Wall Street Journal reported. CEO Jeff Bezos said “HQ2” would be equal in stature to the e-tail giant’s home base in Seattle, and with so many jobs at stake, cities are already lining up to submit their bids, which are due by October 19. Mark Sweeney, partner at McCallum Sweeney Consulting, told the Journal he expected interest in the opportunity to be “unmatched and unrestrained by every location”:
In addition to tax breaks on property, state and city income tax, Mr. Sweeney says states could offer to pay Amazon cash through tax rebates. Other incentives such as grants for training employees, adding public transportation or expedited permit approvals could also be part of a deal, consultants said.
Amazon says it is looking for a metro area with at least one million people, a strong university system in the area (and a strong pool of tech talent), within close proximity of an international airport.
The announcement comes just weeks after Amazon held a massive one-day hiring event in which it aimed to fill 50,000 warehouse jobs as part of its plan to expand its US workforce by 100,000 employees by mid-2018. It also comes on the heels of its acquisition of Whole Foods along with its 87,000 employees. Between the Whole Foods acquisition and the plans for HQ2, GeekWire’s Taylor Soper notes, Amazon is well on its way to having a workforce half a million people strong:
In recent years, a number of large US corporations have ditched their suburban office-park campuses for new headquarters in city centers in response to a growing need to court tech talent and millennial employees who prefer urban lifestyles. Through the lens of McDonald’s recent relocation from suburban Oak Brook, Illinois to Chicago’s trendy West Town neighborhood, the Washington Post’s Jonathan O’Connell explores the impact this transformation is having on the prosperity of suburbia, USA:
McDonald’s may not even be the most noteworthy corporate mover in Illinois. Machinery giant Caterpillar said this year that it was moving its headquarters from Peoria to Deerfield, which is closer to Chicago. It said it would keep about 12,000 manufacturing, engineering and research jobs in its original hometown. But top-paying office jobs — the type that Caterpillar’s higher-ups enjoy — are being lost, and the company is canceling plans for a 3,200-person headquarters aimed at revitalizing Peoria’s downtown.
“It was really hard. I mean, you know that $800 million headquarters translated into hundreds and hundreds of good construction jobs over a number of years,” Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said. Long term, the corporate moves threaten an orbit of smaller enterprises that fed on their proximity to the big companies, from restaurants and janitorial operations to subcontractors who located nearby. …