Amazon is narrowing down the search for the home of its $5 billion second headquarters, called HQ2. In January, the company selected 20 metros across North America as finalists.
One of the biggest underdogs is Newark, New Jersey, a city with an economy that has struggled to recover from the 2008 recession.
At first glance, Newark’s HQ2 bid, released by the state on April 25, doesn’t offer too many surprises. It boasts about Newark’s available workforce, vacant space, transit options, and economic incentives — all requirements that Amazon highlighted in its original request for HQ2 proposals from cities.
New Jersey also hints at other projects that are not directly related to HQ2, but that Amazon could be involved in. These projects include a fleet of driverless cars, a massive online library, and the development of entire housing communities.
Since Amazon chose Newark as a top contender, the bid suggests these kinds of civic projects — which go beyond its core retail business — are attractive to the tech giant.
Take a look at Newark’s bid below:
Newark's bid for Amazon HQ
Newark's bid for Amazon HQ
Newark, New Jersey is one of 20 cities that Amazon’s second headquarters could land in.
The HQ2 campus promises 50,000 jobs over the next 10 to 15 years.
The city is proposing eight sites in its Broad Street Station District, Penn Station District, and downtown.
These sites include specific buildings, as well as general neighborhoods that have ample vacant space: SoMa, Mulberry Commons, Gateway Center, Matrix Riverfront, Lotus Riverfront, Military Park, NJPAC, 520 Broad Street, and 33 Washington Street.
Newark has at least 15 million square feet of existing office space, which would allow Amazon to move in as early as this year.
Some of the city’s proposed neighborhoods are in the midst of mega-overhauls.
Riverfront Park, for example, is undergoing a $55 million redevelopment, which will add 20 acres of open public space, an urban beach, dog runs, art exhibition spaces, and recreational areas.
The bid also boasts about Newark’s 26 miles of super-fast internet, highly educated workforce, numerous transit options, and low living costs.
But the document’s last six pages — which include details about the $7 billion in tax breaks New Jersey would give Amazon — are redacted.
Throughout the bid, there are also hints that the state would involve Amazon in civic projects related to housing, transportation, education, and public internet access.
RPM, a developer that has worked in Newark for nearly three decades, writes that it would develop residential communities "specifically tailored for [Amazon’s] needs."
And Nancy Cantor, chancellor of the nearby Rutgers University, said that the school could partner with the tech company on summer research programs, which would possibly serve as a pipeline for future Amazon workers.
In a letter to Jeff Bezos in the bid, Newark CIO Seth Wainer writes that the city would provide free high-speed internet to HQ2 for a year.
Newark's free outdoor Wifi network — which will double in size in 2018 — collects analytics on over 70,000 users who pass through Newark. It's unclear what kind of user data the city gathers.
It’s also unclear whether Amazon would gain access to the data if it chose Newark for HQ2, but the bid suggests that would be the case.
Using this network, the city is proposing putting an Amazon Echo on every street corner, so passersby can ask it questions.
As Scientific American notes, Amazon learns about its customers through Alexa-gathered data. During the 2017 holiday season, the company said it indicated that the martini and the Manhattan were the most-requested cocktails, "Jingle Bells" was the most common song, and the most common person called in the US was "mom."
Data like this helps Amazon market products on its shopping site, and it's possible the company could collect even more intelligence by replicating the strategy on street corners. This could also create some concerns about privacy.
Wainer adds that Newark could team up with Amazon and other companies on several smart city projects, like the nation’s largest free outdoor library with Audible and a highway for low-speed autonomous cars with Panasonic. The city could also work with Amazon on a "drone skyway."
"More so than Elon Musk in Los Angeles or Google in New York, Amazon Newark would create a civic technological revolution," he concludes in the letter.
In some ways, an HQ2 in Newark could look much like Amazon’s first home in Seattle. There, the company doesn’t just operate a few offices — It has transformed Seattle into a company town.
New Jersey’s bid includes a map that compares the scale of Amazon’s Seattle HQ2 with its proposed sites in Newark side-by-side.
For example, Amazon helps fund a political action committee that has helped elect several business-friendly candidates for mayor, the county, and city council.
Newark is a dark horse in the competition for Amazon’s second headquarters, and the city is one of few that has made its bid almost fully public.
Boston and Miami have also released their proposals. The state of Pennsylvania ruled last week that Philadelphia must publish its full HQ2 pitch within 30 days, but Philadelphia Magazine reports that the city may appeal the order. The Ohio Court of Claims, responding to a complaint filed by the Cleveland.com, also recently ordered Cleveland to make its bid public.