(Bloomberg)—Amazon.com Inc. already has a sprawling Seattle headquarters that attests to its size and ambition. Now the world’s largest online retailer plans to open a second North American campus—dubbed HQ2—that Amazon says could be just as big as the existing one.
The company is asking local and state governments to submit proposals for a development that will likely cost more than $5 billion over the next 15 to 17 years and give the winning city or town an enormous economic boost. Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, is already one of the biggest employers in Seattle and expects the new headquarters to house as many as 50,000 workers, many of them new hires. Cities have until next month to apply through a special website, and the company said it will make a final decision next year.
The mayors of Memphis, Tenn., and Chicago quickly expressed interest, as did officials in Philadelphia; Hartford, Conn.; Tulsa, Okla.; St. Louis; and Rhode Island, demonstrating that Amazon will wield a lot of leverage in making its choice.
“We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs.”
Amazon recently moved into a new 500-foot-tall office tower in Seattle, complete with 100-foot-tall orbs—Amazon calls them Biospheres—which will host more than 300 plant species from around the world when they open in 2018. The rest of the campus covers several city blocks and is housed in former industrial buildings.
Cities and local governments are expected to compete fiercely for the opportunity to become Amazon’s new base. In 2001 Boeing decided to move its headquarters out of Seattle for Chicago, after it was promised a series of tax breaks and incentives worth as much as $60 million—for just 500 employees.
For the new campus, Amazon said it’s looking for metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people—locations with the potential to attract and retain technical talent. While the company has based itself in the heart of Seattle, where employees have access to bars, restaurants and dog-walking services, Amazon said it would consider a suburban location but said a multi-building layout similar to its Seattle home was also possible.
Amazon said staff at the new office could earn an average annual salary of more than $100,000. The first phase of the development, scheduled for 2019, will require 500,000 square feet, while the total requirement could reach 8 million square feet beyond 2027. Amazon said it will let staff from Seattle move to the new campus.
Expanding rapidly, the e-commerce giant is also opening fulfillment centers across the U.S. and the globe as it broadens its offerings from books and toys to groceries. On Wednesday, the company announced the first such facility for New York, one of 21 new U.S. warehouses announced so far this year that will employ more than 25,000 people. In January, Bezos committed to hiring 100,000 people in the U.S. over the next 18 months.
Last month, Amazon concluded a $13.7 billion deal to buy Whole Foods, accelerating its push into groceries and brick-and-mortar stores. Amazon already operates several college campus locations and has plans to open physical bookstores.