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Amazon HQ contest heats up

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WASHINGTON (AFP) – With billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs at stake, Amazon’s quest for a second North American headquarters has thrust 20 cities into a cutthroat “Hunger Games” style contest – but at what cost?

The US technology and lifestyle giant last week narrowed its list of candidates from 238 applications for the prize, which could provide an estimated $5 billion in investments and 50,000 new jobs.

Amazon expects to announce a decision later this year on “HQ2,” which will be equal to its Seattle headquarters, and is asking the finalists to refine their pitches.

This winning city would get a massive economic infusion that could instantly transform it into a major technology hub, said Brookings Institution fellow Joseph Parilla.

“The size and scale of Amazon’s investment in its current headquarters has been absolutely transformative for that city, and so we would expect on the positive side for that to occur in a winning city as well,” Mr Parilla said.

Mr Parilla said each tech job created would have a “ripple effect,” creating another three to five jobs for the local economy, including from some firms seeking a presence near Amazon.

While many political leaders are embracing the challenge, some analysts have derided the move as a stunt akin to the dystopian novel where citizens must watch youths fight to the death.

“The real downer is the Hunger Games beauty contest will result in a soaking of taxpayers,” said Scott Galloway, a New York University marketing professor.

Mr Galloway said the competition “highlights the perversion of our nation at the hands of big tech.”

Greg LeRoy, executive director of the nonprofit group Good Jobs First, suggested Amazon is staging “a PR stunt to get the most tax breaks from the place it had already decided on” for its headquarters.

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