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Could Amazon be coming to the Triangle?

Amazon announced Thursday that it will be building a new headquarters in a U.S. metropolitan area.

Raleigh and Charlotte both meet several of the requirements for the location of the new headquarters, including having a population of over 1 million and an international airport within 45 minutes.  

The new headquarters, which the company calls HQ2, will be equivalent to Amazon’s Seattle campus and will create up to 50,000 jobs in the area they pick as well as $5 billion in capital investment.  

“This is the deal of the century,” said Maryann Feldman, a professor in the Department of Public Policy at UNC. “It’s hard to imagine a bigger economic deal than this one and there’s such potential for growth here.” 

Amazon has asked cities to submit proposals by Oct. 19. 

“We relentlessly pursue every opportunity to bring new jobs to (North Carolina), and every day we respond to requests for proposals — from those big transformative projects that grab headlines to the many projects you don’t hear about beforehand,” North Carolina Secretary of Commerce Anthony Copeland said in a statement. “North Carolina has been making the necessary investments for our future success.” 

Feldman said Raleigh is a viable candidate for Amazon HQ2. 

“Raleigh is a large (metropolitan statistical area), but Durham and Chapel Hill in combination with Raleigh would be a lot more attractive,” she said. “There are a lot of interesting things going on in Durham, and there’s great entrepreneurial energy and the kind of edginess that existed in Seattle when Amazon was in its early years there.” 

Raleigh’s position on the East Coast would balance out Amazon’s West Coast presence in Seattle, Washington, Feldman said. 

“High quality of life is one of the things that they care about, and we certainly have that,” she said. 

Sridhar Balasubramanian, a marketing professor in the Kenan-Flagler Business School, said the Raleigh-Durham International Airport is another big advantage of the area. The area is also ideal in terms of location, climate and resources. 

“All of that coming together is what I think makes us a compelling proposition," Balasubramanian said. "And I can think of few other places in the country where there is a similar combination of advantages."

One area where Raleigh falls short of other locations is in public transportation. 

“One thing that hurts this region is that we don’t have great transit in place,” Feldman said. “Adding 50,000 workers and 50,000 cars on the roads is significant.” 

Balasubramanian said 50,000 people moving into an area would become like their own ecosystem — meaning they would generate enough economic benefits to accommodate themselves. 

“There will be a period of adjustment, but I think that as long as we manage the infrastructural and economic effects well, then I can only see it beneficial for the area,” he said. 

The three major research universities in the Triangle — UNC, Duke and N.C. State — are also a draw for businesses like Amazon, Balasubramanian said.  

Feldman said empty buildings left behind by IBM and GlaxoSmithKline in Raleigh could also be resources for Amazon. 

“I think that the best thing that we can do is to respond to this proposal and do it in a way that brings in Durham and other places in the (Triangle) because combined, this is a very attractive area,” she said. 


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