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September 09, 2017

How does Philadelphia really stack up against Amazon's wish list for a second headquarters?

Amazon's hunt for a second home is likely to get competitive. 

The Seattle-based e-commerce giant announced its search for another North American headquarters, which will cost more than $5 billion to build, on Thursday – a move that will bring about 50,000 jobs to its new city within two decades. 

The coveted location won't go just anywhere, however. Amazon's got a solid wish list that includes a city with a population of more than 1 million, an international airport, public transportation system, good colleges and universities, an educated workforce and a "solid business climate," CNBC reported this week.

Mayor Jim Kenney says he plans to throw his hat in the ring to bring the opportunity to Philadelphia, but how does the City of Brotherly Love really stack up?

Depends on who you ask, but overall, not too bad. A number of organizations have turned to their data crunchers in the past week, some ranking Philadelphia a top candidate while others favor the possibility totally unlikely.

In a report published Thursday, John Schoen, an economics reporter for CNBC, took all the major U.S. cities that met Amazon's qualifications, gave them points based on the criteria and ranked them against one another.

Philadelphia took the No. 13 spot, faring well for its universities and public transportation. But it suffered suffering greatly due to labor force education and job growth, despite Philly outstripping New York City for job growth in May, according to CBRE Group Inc., a commercial real estate company.

CNBC suggests New York, Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston as top contenders for Amazon.

The New York Times' "The Upshot," its section dedicated to data-driven reporting, eliminated Philadelphia pretty early on also for its lack of job growth, an issue that also cut out the possibility for Amazon to find its new home in cities like Phoenix, Baltimore and Chicago, according to the publication.

Spoiler – The Upshot's guess is that the new headquarters would be best off in Denver.

Though, it's Henry Grabar, staff writer for Slate's Moneybox and Aaron Renn, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institue for Policy Research who also writes for CityLab, that believe in Philadelphia's possibility.

Slate gave Philly points for its affordability, including the city in its final picks along with Baltimore, Chicago and Denver.

Grabar writes that while Baltimore has "stellar cultural institutions" and is close to Washington, D.C., Philadelphia has similar qualities but a "better regional transit system" and is a stone's throw away from New York.

In his piece for CityLab, Renn lists Philly as a strong contender along with Chicago, Dallas and Atlanta.

He writes:

Chicago and Philly have genuine urban options with genuine urban transit. (I should note: Amazon hasn’t ruled out a suburban location). All of them would surely clear the decks of any obstacles to construction. All of them have much more affordable housing than coastal cities. All have an ability to draw college grads from a large footprint.

I would expect these cities to bid aggressively. Dallas and Atlanta really don’t need Amazon, though they would surely want it. For Chicago and Philly, this represents a transformational opportunity.

Though, in the end, Renn put his bets on Chicago.

Cities have until Oct. 19 to submit a proposalAmazon is set to make a final decision next year.