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EQ Office CEO: Amazon HQ2 Will Become 'HQmany'

One location for Amazon HQ2 is now reportedly a bid for two locations (HQ2A and HQ2B?). Ultimately, however, there might be more than two, as predicted by EQ Office President and CEO Lisa Picard.

Equity Office Executive CEO Lisa Picard

Writing at Medium.comPicard argues that no single city can fully accommodate Amazon’s growth, and especially its need for diverse talent. In addition, no one city has the infrastructure necessary to support Amazon's talent wave. For this reason, Picard said Amazon's hunt for HQ2 was really a search for "HQmany."

She cites the retail giant's impact on Seattle, where Amazon has occupied more than 13M SF during the last decade and was directly and indirectly responsible for much of the city's population growth of 100,000 during that same period.

The growth of tech has made the city global, but it has also created stresses locally, especially as the price of housing and office space has skyrocketed.

Seattle proved to be a good place to find the tech talent needed by Amazon and other corporate giants, but even in Seattle the supply of tech talent isn't unlimited. Thus Amazon and others have gone to great lengths to attract talent from overseas, Picard writes.

Amazon still has big growth plans, such as in retail, robotics, logistics and pharmaceuticals. Finding talent is the foundation of any such growth for the company.

"To continue its pace of growth, talent is the limiter and therefore Amazon must rapidly expand its core development centers into 16 different locations across North America and beyond," Picard writes. Or maybe more.

The top North American cities for tech talent, at least according to CBRE, include many well-known for their tech industries, but also a few lesser-known places, such as Baltimore, Ottawa, Montreal and Detroit.

Rather than simply setting up a second HQ to accommodate all of its lines of business, Amazon will focus different specialties in different places.

Picard references a theory presented by Madrona Venture Group Managing Director Matt McIlwain, who calls the locations of these specialties "centers of excellence." For example, D.C./Virginia for cloud and cybersecurity, Boston for AI, Pittsburgh for machine learning, and so on.

“Maybe there’s two or three cities that they put major presences in rather than call any one HQ2," McIlwain told in Dallas. "They just have multiple cities where their major substantial presence is. They partner with those cities as centers of excellence."

Ultimately the decision on how to divvy its HQ2 will rest as much on city incentive packages as it will on Amazon's corporate culture and data.

"In other words, Amazon is cheap and loves a deal," Picard writes.