Amazon HQ2 search mystery has been solved. Or has it?

WASHINGTON — Amazon's search for a site for its second headquarters is now mostly playing out behind closed doors, as officials from 20 finalist locations provide the company with additional materials.

In the vacuum, the tiniest shreds of information related to the HQ2 search are being examined with a level of scrutiny normally reserved for the Zapruder film or Bryce Harper's coming free agency.

The Amazon search is a serious matter. The chosen city could reap 50,000 jobs and $4 billion in investments from the company. Taxpayers may be asked to foot billions of dollars of subsidies to win the deal. Housing markets and traffic patterns may be dramatically affected by the company's decision. A group backed by the Koch Brothers published a video opposing subsidies for the project. On the other hand, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe suggested recently, in an interview, that "whoever wins this thing is going to run for president."  

As anticipation builds, new clues surface seemingly every day about where Amazon is headed, one revelation overtaking the next. So why not indulge? Here's a sample of guesses.

1. Amazon is going to Austin, as it cunningly revealed in its Super Bowl ad.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (who owns the Washington Post) recently starred in the company's Super Bowl spot. But that's not what what caught the attention of folks in the capital of Texas.

The ad opens with an Alexa device giving a tooth-brushing woman a report on the weather in Austin. As Texas Monthly put it, "it's a big ol' clue, as far as we're concerned." Alexa is later asked to play country music, another obvious reference to Austin. (Unless, of course, it is nod to Nashville).

But that's not all. The spot ends with actor Anthony Hopkins feeding snacks to a peacock, which just so happens to be something of an informal mascot for the city due to the bird's prevalence in Mayfield Park.

2. Amazon is going to Maryland because it hired someone who worked there.

When Amazon announced its list of 20 finalists, the company included a comment from executive Holly Sullivan who said the search helped the company learn "about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation."

One place Sullivan presumably didn't need to read up on was Montgomery County, Maryland, where her very job was to grow the county's economy as president of the now-defunct Montgomery Business Development Corp. Just look at how confidently she promotes the county's business climate in this county cable television program from 2013.

Current Montgomery County economic development executive David Petr told the Baltimore Sun that "I don't think Holly has an influence either way." But a state delegate told the newspaper that he thinks "it's a good thing" for the state's chances. Aha!

3. Amazon is going to Northern Virginia, as demonstrated by its employees' interest in environmentally friendly green buildings there.

Everyone from the New York Times to the Drudge Report noted a recent exclusive report from the web site, which discovered by looking through its online readership data that it had received thousands of clicks from an domain on an article titled "County Wins Top Environmental Award from U.S. Green Building Council."

The site reported that "the vast majority" of some 6,000 views appeared to come from Amazon and that the traffic source "appears to be an internal page devoted to its HQ2 search." The article goes on to report how Arlington County, Virginia, was the first place in the country to earn top certification for use of green and resilient buildings — exactly the type of buildings Amazon would like to fill.

4. Amazon is going to Boston, because its executives already decided.

A week after Amazon began its search and weeks before the deadline to submit information, Bloomberg reported that "several" senior executives advocated putting the second headquarters in Boston. The reasons were many, and believable: Boston has wonderful colleges, a lower cost of living than New York, and Amazon had already purchased a local robot-maker there.

Amazon strongly refuted this. "Bloomberg is incorrect — there are no front-runners at this point. We're just getting started & every city is on equal playing field," Amazon News wrote on Twitter.

However, Amazon did name Boston a finalist. And last month Boston reporters found that the company was negotiating a deal for up to 1 million square feet in Boston, which could be a precursor to HQ2.

5. Amazon is going to Los Angeles, because its code name for the headquarters is 'Project Golden.'

Earlier this month, sleuths at the Raleigh News & Observer determined that multiple bidders had referenced 'project Golden' in their Amazon responses. "It is with great enthusiasm the Hickory (area) submits the attached response for project Golden (HQ2)," wrote Catawaba County, N.C. economic development official Scott Millar to the company with its bid.

Catawaba County was not named a finalist but perhaps Millar's wording let slip the project's code name, which sounds a lot like a reference to the Golden State, a.k.a. California, a.k.a. the home state of HQ2 finalist Los Angeles.

Millar was not alone in observing this. As the News & Observer reported:

"Back in September, the city of Frisco, Texas and the Frisco Economic Development Corp. prepared a pitch to Amazon outlining a $300 million local incentive proposal for " 'Project Golden Headquarters (HQ2).' "

"Also that month, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the headquarters search had been dubbed Project Golden. Earlier this week, the Albuquerque Journal reported emails detailing New Mexico's prospects that identify it as Project Golden."

Now we're getting somewhere.

Maybe not. An Amazon spokesman subsequently told the paper that Golden is, um, the last name of the mail clerk to whom the submissions were to be addressed. A closer look at the request for proposals shows that submissions are to be sent to the following address:


Office of Economic Development

c/o Site Manager Golden

2121 7th Ave

Seattle, WA 98121 

Humph. Well, it appears that some local economic development officials simply misread the search materials.

Or did they?

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in

Sweet Dream Makers provide needy families with beds
Sweet Dream Makers provide needy families with beds

A decade ago, Suzanne Broad was a busy volunteer at numerous non-profits, including a food pantry and a home for children. She also led a holiday gift-giving program for her temple. One day a police officer at a food pantry told her about a family in need. When she visited the family, she noticed more than the absence of furniture. She also noticed...
Owner responsible for assessments regardless of when damage occurred

Question: Our HOA is assessing every homeowner in our development for damage incurred during Hurricane Irma. We did not own our home during that time, and only closed on the house after the owners fixed the damage that Irma caused. Are we required to pay that assessment? — A.S. Answer: Owners are responsible for all assessments that come due...
New radio show to promote tourism in Palm Beach County
New radio show to promote tourism in Palm Beach County

A group of tourism leaders have teamed up to launch a radio show they hope will help bring travelers from across the state to Palm Beach County.  The show, which will eventually be syndicated on radio stations in Orlando, Tampa and other parts of the state, features tourism experts from across Palm Beach County offerings tips and information for...
South Florida Science Center to begin work on new $2.4 million exhibit
South Florida Science Center to begin work on new $2.4 million exhibit

The South Florida Science Center plans to begin work this summer on a $2.4 million exhibit designed to teach visitors about the human brain. The center on Thursday received a $900,000 donation from the Quantum Foundation that will allow construction to begin on the exhibit, entitled A Journey Through the Human Brain. The exhibit will “take a...
Winn Dixie’s parent company to close three Palm Beach County stores
Winn Dixie’s parent company to close three Palm Beach County stores

Winn-Dixie’s parent company, Southeastern Grocers, plans to close three of its Palm Beach County stores, including its only Fresco y Más location here, officials announced this week. The closures are part of a restructuring plan to shutter 94 under-preforming stores across its four grocery brands. Once complete, Southeastern...
More Stories