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Amazon H2Q bid process gave the company invaluable data about cities – how will it be used?

Amazon broke off its HQ2 bid process with more than $ 5 billion in tax evasion and grants from the two winning places: New York City and Arlington, Virginia.

Along the way, Amazon hit something from over 200 cities that submitted proposals for the new headquarters of the house, which could be even more valuable: Data. Many of it.

In its 14-month search for HQ2, Amazon received 238 proposals from cities hoping to lure the online store, with the promise of 50,000 jobs and billions of dollars in investment. These bids contained exhaustive data on almost every aspect of community life, including zoning codes, landowners, population demographics, mass transit, infrastructure plans, progress of the development project and much more.

For a company wishing to expand its empire with new facilities ̵[ads1]1; and finding new ways to reach customers faster – these data may prove invaluable.

"I think they had this in mind from the first day," Richard Florida, a professor of university study in Toronto who traced the HQ2 process, told CBS News. "This was about crowdsourcing data … This was never about an individual HQ2."

Florida called the bidding process a "game" that gave Amazon influence on cities that could use for future business opportunities, although these cities had little chance of winning the other headquarters.

Some small towns that do not meet the company's criteria for HQ2, such as a population of at least 1 million people, actually offered bids, in any case, hoping to attract Amazon's attention. And some cities that made the list of 20 finalists – like Columbus, Ohio and Indianapolis – do not meet the demands of mass transit, but Amazon still engaged them through the final parts of the process and gathered more information.

It is impossible to know the full extent of city data that Amazon picked up since most cities have kept their bids secret. But the few who release them give an idea of ​​what Amazon learned thanks to HQ2.

The San Francisco Bay Area bid included chapters on the area's education, transit and home demographics, along with encyclopedic entries about each potential place where HQ2 could go. The Camden, New Jersey suggest detailed billions of dollar infrastructure improvement projects in progress, some of them are years away from completion. The bid from Boston gave the smallest details of the city's residents, for example, how many live near a park and how many go to work.

Beyond this, Amazon also learned how far cities will go to celebrate the company – something it can use next time it wants to expand operations. The bids produced the incentive packages Amazon would have from the cities, and the last two winners were not even the most generous. Newark, New Jersey, offered Amazon incentives worth $ 7 billion, the largest in state history and in any city in the bid process.

The HQ2 announcement came with some of a consolation prize for Nashville, Tennessee, which will contain an operating center that is expected to bring up to 5000 jobs. Next time Amazon is looking for another center, it already knows some of the most valuable information it needs.

"They know the best and final offers of the cities for HQ2," Nathan Jensen, a Texas university professor in Austin, and co-author of "Incentives to Pander: How Politicians Use Corporate Welfare for Political Gain," told CBS News. Amazon also has "personal contacts in economic development" in these cities, and knows the "limit" of what to expect from them, "said Jensen.

Some cities made it clear that they would mix their own governments for Amazonian approval. Boston said it would set up an "Amazon Task Force" of the city's employees who would work on Amazon's behalf. Fresno, California, proposed putting most of the money generated by Amazon into a fund that would be monitored by both city officials and Amazon officers who would decide how to use it. The mayor of Stonecrest, Georgia, proposed to create a city called Amazon and install Jeff Bezos as permanent mayor.

In a statement to CBS News, Amazon said: "Economic incentives were a factor in our decision – but attracting top talent was the leading driver." The company also said that it has announced more than 6000 jobs in places that bid for HQ2, but not selected. An Amazon representative said that the company would not use data from cities to target customers for products or ads.

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