Ama­zon to Toronto: Are you hip enough for our HQ2?

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FP SASKATOON -

Arts, cul­ture and other qual­ity of life is­sues were top of mind for Ama­zon.com Inc. of­fi­cials in dis­cussing Toronto as a pos­si­ble lo­ca­tion for its sec­ond head­quar­ters with the city’s mayor.

Hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity, im­mi­gra­tion and tran­sit were also hot top­ics in the talks ear­lier this year, Mayor John Tory said.

“They spent what some peo­ple would prob­a­bly find a surprising amount of time on what we’ll call, the sort of arts and cul­ture, the gen­eral kind of life in the city,” Tory said at an in­ter­view. “And this as a liv­able city.”

Toronto is the only city out­side of the U.S. to make the short­list for Ama­zon’s sec­ond head­quar­ters.

Dubbed HQ2, the com­pany said the devel­op­ment is slated to cost more than US$5 bil­lion and cre­ate 50,000 jobs.

Tech is al­ready booming in North Amer­ica’s fourth-big­gest city with firms in­clud­ing Mi­crosoft Corp., Uber Tech­nolo­gies Inc. and Shopify Inc. an­nounc­ing plans for thou­sands of jobs in the past few months.

Choos­ing Toronto would pro­vide a hedge against in­creas­ingly re­stric­tive U.S. im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies, a big con­cern of tech com­pa­nies since the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump as pres­i­dent; in­vest­ing that much in­vest­ment out­side the coun­try could also raise his ire.

The mayor said Ama­zon was “in­scrutable” in terms of dis­clos­ing whether Toronto was a se­ri­ous con­tender or even when it was go­ing to de­cide.

“They sort of call and make the odd in­quiry that’s check­ing on a fact or some­thing, but they haven’t been giv­ing a daily up­date as far as I know.”

Still, he said Ama­zon was “very flat­ter­ing” about the diver­sity and depth of the city’s tal­ent base, many of which have made their way south to the com­pany’s U.S. op­er­a­tions, Tory said.

PETER J. THOMP­SON

Toronto Mayor John Tory says Ama­zon was “flat­ter­ing” about the city’s tal­ent base.

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