Watson and Task Force Want Amazon Shipped to Ottawa

Could Amazon be shipping its second headquarters to Ottawa? If Mayor Jim Watson has his way, you’re future online orders may be arriving at your front door from much closer then you think.

Last Thursday, the online retail giant announced that it was their turn to shop around. They weren’t looking for the current Blu-ray set of Game of Thrones, a sweater for Grandma or winter reading material, however. Seattle-based Amazon Inc. is in the market for a home away from home and they’ve got bucks to spend on their new shop. $5 billion, to be exact. More than enough to qualify for free shipping.   

Shortly after the announcement, mayors of multiple Canadian cities quickly tossed their names into the hat. The race was on! Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Toronto all stepped forward with Watson leading the bid for Ottawa. The Mayor showed how serious his intentions were by promptly contacting Invest Ottawa to form a local task force to help court the company.

To Watson, the Capital is a natural fit for a company like Amazon to call home. In a statement, he said that: "My hope is that we will be placing a strong and convincing bid to host Amazon HQ2 in our nation's capital, which would greatly benefit our community, attracting tens of thousands of jobs and helping diversify our economy.”

Ottawa may have a growing tech industry (currently led by Shopify) as an advantage but competition will be tough. Not only have Canadian cities already started this attempted courtship but places like Boston, New York and Pittsburgh have all stepped up to the plate.

With the deadline for bids ending on October 19th, potential wooers like Watson need to meet proposal criteria for consideration. Amazon has stated that any city hoping to win their hand will need a population of over a million, suitable public transit, easy access to airports, the ability to retain willing workers and “a stable and business friendly environment and tax structure”.

While this would appear to place Ottawa out of the running (only Montreal, Calgary and Toronto have a million-plus populace), the Mayor remains hopeful that the city has more than just numbers in our favour to lure the company.

“Working with our economic development partners, we will showcase all that our city has to offer,” Watson said, adding that he will be holding discussions with not only the City of Ottawa but also Gatineau.

Along with the $5 billon investment to start up HQ2, Amazon would create 50,000 jobs in what would be an eight million square foot complex and be a boost to the local economy. According to a report last week by Busienss Insider, a company like this setting up residence is likely to transform any city that houses them. You just need to look at Seattle itself for evidence with the Times recently reporting that the city has now become the fastest-growing in the U.S.  

Could Ottawa become Amazon's next Company Town? While experts have sited past examples of businesses setting up shop and then pulling up stakes leaving economic and job devastation, Watson and the task force believe that Ottawa is ready and able to sustain such an organization over the long haul.

"As an innovation and research-intensive city, counting a bilingual and culturally diverse high-tech and telecommunications workforce of more than 77,000 leading professionals, Ottawa is well positioned to host this Amazon campus," Watson said.