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In shift, Amazon now planning to divide ‘HQ2’ plans between two sites, report says

The recent spate of news on reported talks likely indicates that Amazon is in the late stages of choosing a site for the campus, which it has said it would do before the end of this year.

Amazon is reportedly in talks with Dallas, New York, and Northern Virginia's Crystal City district as potential sites for its planned second headquarters.
Amazon is reportedly in talks with Dallas, New York, and Northern Virginia's Crystal City district as potential sites for its planned second headquarters.Read moreAP Photo/Reed Saxon

Amazon is reportedly revisiting its plan for a single second headquarters outside its Seattle home and now plans to divide its new corporate presence between two locations, instead.

Instead of choosing one location for a campus for what had been a planned 50,000 new workers, the e-commerce giant will select two spots, employing 25,000 at each, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing an unidentified person familiar with the company's plans.

The shift was prompted by an expected difficulty in recruiting sufficient tech talent at a single site, the person told the Journal.

The change in strategy comes as Inc. appears to be zeroing in on a pool of final candidate sites from among the 20-location shortlist it released at the start of this year.

The Journal had reported Sunday that New York is "actively talking with Amazon," while "advanced talks" continue with Dallas. That news came a day after the Washington Post reported that specific office buildings in the Northern Virginia district of Crystal City, Arlington County, were being eyed for use by the company.

Dallas, New York, and Northern Virginia are all on the list of 20 locations named as finalists for the so-called HQ2 complex. Talks have "cooled" with other cities on the list including Denver, Toronto, Atlanta, Nashville, and Raleigh, according to the Journal.

Philadelphia, which is also on Amazon's HQ2 shortlist, was not mentioned in that report.

John Grady, president of the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., which is leading the city's HQ2 bid, declined Monday to comment on the implications of Amazon's new two-city strategy for Philadelphia or to discuss whether city officials remain in contact with Amazon concerning the project.

An Amazon spokesman said Monday that the company was not commenting on recent published stories but was committed to making a final decision by year's end.

The company's original plan, which it sketched out in an invitation for potential host cities to bid for the project, called for spending more than $5 billion on a new corporate campus. It had said it could eventually put eight million square feet of offices at the site, an amount of space equal to more than six Comcast Center towers.

Stifel Financial Corp., a St. Louis-based investment bank, forecast earlier this year that Amazon would probably cull its list of finalists down to a pool of five or six locations and negotiate concurrently with landlords and public officials at each site.

"Concurrent negotiations can mean negotiating with multiple entities (city, county, state, landowner, building owners) for each of five or six locations," a Stifel team led by analyst John W. Guinee wrote in a July note to clients. "While this occurs, we expect many more articles published which compare and contrast this short list."

The Washington area — Northern Virginia, in particular — had topped many analysts' lists of likely choices, thanks to its easy transit options, available office space, and accessible airports. Also, Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos  has a home in Washington and owns the Post newspaper.

Among the 20 locations for Amazon's shortlist for HQ2, Northern Virginia is also where Amazon is already expanding most rapidly, according to an analysis of job posts between May and July of this year by the tech website Geekwire.

During that time, the company had an average of 841 open positions in a region that combines Washington, Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Md., each of which is listed individually among the finalists, a number that trails only Seattle and Northern California's Silicon Valley, which is not on the short list, Geekwire said.

Geekwire ranked Philadelphia as having the least number of job openings among the 20 finalists but did not specify how many there were.

Some also speculated that a September visit to Washington by Amazon board members boded well for the region's chances. Amazon officials have also paid repeat visits to finalist cities  including Chicago, Miami, and Newark, N.J., according to published reports.

There is no indication that any company representatives have returned to Philadelphia since their initial visits to each of the selected cities earlier this year.