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Amazon's HQ2 Going to a City You've Never Heard of, Site Claims

Amazon's HQ2 Going to a City You've Never Heard of, Site Claims
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
 

By    |   Wednesday, 19 September 2018 03:41 PM

Amazon’s seemingly interminable hunt for a home for its second world headquarters is over, according to the demographic and place-data site BestPlaces.net.

The site, founded by best-selling author/researcher Bert Sperling, claims that Amazon – a company whose stock surpassed $1 trillion in valuation earlier this month -- will put its roots down in a relatively remote area of Northern Virginia known as Oatlands.

If that name doesn’t exactly ring a bell, don’t feel badly. Oatlands is a leafy, unincorporated community just outside Leesburg, Va. -- and Leesburg itself only has about 52,000 residents.

“We can now confidently say that the new Amazon HQ2 will be located … in Northern Virginia near the Maryland border, in a small community that hasn’t been mentioned by other experts or publications,” BestPlaces.net declared Monday.

So why Oatlands?

The town is best known for the 415-acre Oatlands Plantation, a National Historic Landmark that was once a working farm, saw mill, and vineyard. Over 130 slaves labored on the plantation before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation.

Its main advantages appear to be proximity to major travel arteries and to Washington, D.C. It also has a relatively bucolic setting and would be easier to control than a major city. In this respect, building a new home in the Leesburg area would be akin to Walt Disney’s decision in 1963 to build Disney World in Orlando.

Based on Amazon’s stated requirements for its new “co-headquarters,” BestPlaces.net reports the choice is clear: Oatlands.

BestPlaces is no lightweight in the demographic and geographic-location business. Visitors to its website can punch in any zip code to call up an exhaustive list of the pros and cons of virtually every place to live and work in the United States.

Oatlands is about 35 miles west of Washington D.C., where Amazon owner Jeff Bezos operates his other major property, The Washington Post. According to Sperling, Oatlands will soon be served by the new Silver Line of the Washington Metro rapid transit system. It only takes 20 minutes to drive from Leesburg to the Dulles International Airport.

Both Leesburg and Oatlands are in Loudoun County, Va., which is often described as a bedroom community for Washington, D.C.

By establishing itself in Oatlands, Amazon would have one headquarters on each coast. Its current headquarters is in Seattle.

Among the reasons Best Places offers for asserting Amazon will choose Oatlands:

  • It offers employees an “overall high quality of life” and provides the company with “a gateway to Europe and beyond.”
  • It puts the company closer to America’s political nerve center -- a necessary move because “major corporations like Amazon find themselves used as targets to make political statements. Jeff Bezos has himself become a political lighting rod as owner of the liberal-leaning Washington Post.”
  • The rural location is much cheaper for Amazon and office buildings “can be built and clustered as desired, rather than shoehorned into existing spaces. With a clean slate, architects and planners can create new communities and neighborhoods …”
  • It is close to D.C., and will “provide a pool of educated workers and a major international airport.”
  • At Oatlands, Amazon would be able to “create their own bold vision starting with a blank canvas” according to Best Places, something it would be unable to do in a larger city.

Oatlands is certainly an underdog in the competition. In its year-long search for a location for its second headquarters, Amazon has explored its options in New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Rhode Island, Virginia, Colorado, and California.

Loudoun is Virginia’s third most populous county, with about 376,000 residents, behind only Fairfax County (1.15 million), and Prince William County (463,000). It could provide at least some of the company’s demand for high-tech workers: George Mason University, Virginia Tech, and George Washington University all have branches there, as does Northern Virginia Community College.

Placing such a large headquarters -- a $5 billion facility with 50,000 new employees -- in such a modest-sized town would of course be disruptive. BestPlaces.net estimates it would draw “an additional 120,000 to 140,000 residents to the area in the form of family members, civil workers, and support businesses such as retail, healthcare, and services.”

That said, there is a precedent for bringing major industry to the Leesburg area. In 1974, Xerox built the Xerox International Center for Training and Management Development there. Today, that facility operates as The National Conference Center.

Now leaders in Northern Virginia will be hoping history repeats itself.

“Amazon has proven itself to be bold and creative,” BestPlaces notes, “and building their own city in Oatlands, Va., certainly fits that mold.”

In a speech just last week to the Economic Club of Washington, however, Bezos insisted that no decision has been made.

“The answer is very simple,” he declared, according to WJLA-TV. “We will announce a decision before the end of the year. We’ve made tremendous progress, the team is working their butts off, and we will get there.”

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Amazon's seemingly interminable hunt for a home for its second world headquarters is over, according to the demographic and place-data site BestPlaces.net.
amazon, jeff bezos, washington post, headquarters
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2018-41-19
Wednesday, 19 September 2018 03:41 PM
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