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Amazon HQ2 Race Leads Cities, Regions To Pay Closer Attention To Infrastructure

The competition to land Amazon's second headquarters came with a clear indication of the tech giant's wish list — with close proximity to tech talent and decent transit high on the list.

The contest has inspired cities, including some Amazon has not selected, to ramp up their site selection game with new or improved infrastructure, Business Insider reports.

Amazon campus, Seattle

In metro Washington, D.C., which is currently a favorite for landing HQ2, the state of Maryland recently agreed to pony up $167M/year in permanent financing for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, in an agreement with D.C. and Virginia. That means the system will have a reliable revenue stream for the first time since its creation more than 40 years ago, the Washington Post reports.

The move by Maryland wasn't specifically tied to the quest for Amazon HQ2, but there is no doubt that Maryland really wants the new headquarters. In April, the state legislature approved an $8.5B incentive package aimed at landing HQ2, the largest such incentive in the state's history, the Baltimore Sun reported.

In Boston, which is also very much in the running, the city is more willing to commit funds in an Amazon HQ2 incentive plan if it is tied to infrastructure improvements.

After all, new Amazon employees flocking to the city would put a strain on its current resources, especially the subway network. As such, the city’s official bid to Amazon includes upgrades to the Blue Line. 

Though Houston lost its bid for HQ2, the city has unveiled plans to transform Houston’s former Midtown Sears into an Innovation Hub that will attract Houston's next generation of entrepreneurs.

In Detroit, which Amazon presumably rejected partly for its poor public transit, civic and business leaders are pushing a ballot initiative to improve the regional transit network.

An open letter published in April in the Detroit Free Press, and signed by 23 Detroit-area CEOs, said that "the poor quality of our public transit is not lost on potential investors in our region."