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Updated: Atlanta (definitely) won’t score Amazon’s HQ2, but Nashville’s a winner. What went wrong?

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A political spat between former Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Delta Air Lines reportedly didn’t help our chances

UPDATED: TUESDAY, 12:25 p.m. Amazon officials made the announcement today that cities across North America have been waiting more than a year to hear, but which came as little surprise following recent media reports: The e-commerce titan will divide its second headquarters between sites in New York City (Long Island City) and Northern Virginia (Arlington), citing the potential to attract “top talent” as the leading driver in HQ2 location decisions.

More surprising: Amazon announced that Nashville, a regional rival of Atlanta’s, will receive a new “Operations Center of Excellence” with more than 5,000 jobs, with average wages north of $150,000.

The Nashville site chosen is downtown, along the Cumberland River and just north of that city’s Gulch. It’s served by commuter rail and more than a dozen bus routes, Amazon officials noted.

Nashville Mayor David Briley enthused in a prepared statement: “These are quality, high-paying jobs that will boost our economy, provide our workers with new opportunities, and show the rest of the world that Nashville is a premiere location for business investment.”

No official word yet from Georgia’s HQ2 recruitment camp or Atlanta city government, but Gov. Nathan Deal was recently quoted in the Atlanta Business Chronicle as saying his heart wouldn’t break if HQ2 went elsewhere, adding, “We don’t have to have Amazon.”


There’s still a glimmer of hope No hope remains that e-commerce giant Amazon will bring its second North American headquarters to Atlanta, but don’t hold your breath.

Last week, the New York Times reported the coveted HQ2 would likely be broken up into two locations; one in Arlington, Virginia, near Washington D.C., and another in Long Island City, New York.

Since Amazon kicked off its search for a second home base more than a year ago, many a rumor has indicated Northern Virginia had a strong chance at the title.

After all, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post—and a mansion in D.C.—and the proximity to the country’s political capital would allow the company easier access to the officials who govern how it does business.

Of course, that’s not necessarily why Atlanta (probably) won’t win Amazon’s HQ2.

Granted, Georgia has been dubbed the best state to do business for six years running, but that’s not all Amazon is looking for.

For one, the pool of tech talent here—although burgeoning—isn’t quite as impressive as that of some northeastern cities, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Additionally, sometimes Georgia politics can come across as, well, off-putting.

When Amazon officials visited Atlanta for a tour and negotiations last March, many people still had a bad taste in their mouths from the Casey Cagle-Delta Air Lines debacle, in which the former lieutenant governor and then-gubernatorial candidate threatened to kill a tax break for jet fuel after the airline company announced it had severed ties with the National Rifle Association.

Gov. Nathan Deal had been marketing Georgia’s history as a great place to do business and assured Amazon execs that the feud was just politicking. But the gun debate certainly raised some eyebrows with Amazon reps about how Georgia politics could impact business down the line, according to the ABC.

It’s also worth noting that downtown’s Gulch has been rumored to be one of the best Atlanta sites for HQ2.

And, until just last week, when the Atlanta City Council approved a massive development agreement for the desolate pit, the fate of the Gulch was largely uncertain.

Norfolk Southern, another Fortune 500 company, even threatened to withdraw its tentative plans to bring its headquarters to Atlanta if the council didn’t green-light the Gulch plan by last Monday.

And while it might have been merely a drop in the bucket of local issues, it likely didn’t help that the MARTA train Amazon officials were riding on their way into town from the airport broke down, as the ABC reported.

Following the most incentives-rich pitch in Georgia history, Atlanta was considered a serious contender throughout the early phases of HQ2 hoopla, and gambling pros lent Atlanta the best odds of scoring HQ2 a year ago. But sources told the ABC last month that talks with Amazon officials went quiet after a tour of Atlanta in the spring.

Maybe the outcome would be different if Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms offered to change Atlanta’s name to Amazon.