The company said it's aiming for an area of at least 1 million residents, opening up a few dozen cities in the U.S., from New York to Tucson, and a handful more in Canada. It's unclear whether Amazon would consider a bid from a Mexican city.

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Amazon put North America’s major cities into competition for its second headquarters Thursday with the surprise announcement that the tech giant was taking offers for a second home.

The company said it’s aiming for a metropolitan area of at least 1 million residents —  opening up, theoretically, a few dozen cities in the U.S., from New York to Tucson, and a handful more in Canada. It’s unclear whether Amazon would consider a bid from a Mexican city.

The company also mentioned proximity to good universities and a pool of well-educated employees, particularly software engineers, to draw from.

Here are a few candidates observers have highlighted, along with statistics about each city from Zillow and apartmentlist.com. For comparison, in Seattle the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,380 and the median home value is $690,300.

Austin, Texas

Austin’s up-and-coming technology startup scene and liberal-leaning, laid back vibe could draw Amazon. Above, the Austin City Limits Music Festival last fall. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP, file)
Austin’s up-and-coming technology startup scene and liberal-leaning, laid back vibe could draw Amazon. Above, the Austin City Limits Music Festival last fall. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP, file)

Austin’s up-and-coming technology startup scene and liberal-leaning, laid back vibe has drawn comparisons to Seattle. The cost of living is relatively low and, like Washington state, Texas doesn’t have an income tax. South by Southwest’s tech conference now brings tens of thousands of investors and tech professionals to Austin every year, and the city already boasts the headquarters of Dell.

Amazon also has a couple of natural ties to the city. Whole Foods, the company’s new stake in the grocery market, is based in Austin. Texas is also where Bezos spent part of his childhood and has family roots; the western tip of the state is home to the billionaire’s more than 150,000 acres.

Unemployment (Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos): 3.2 percent

Median home value: $323,900

Median rent (one-bedroom apartment): $1,140

Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel has talked with Bezos “several times” about bringing Amazon jobs to the city. That wouldn’t be the first time Seattle’s loss has been Chicago’s gain: The city stole Boeing from Seattle when the aerospace giant moved its headquarters in 2001. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)
Chicago’s mayor Rahm Emanuel has talked with Bezos “several times” about bringing Amazon jobs to the city. That wouldn’t be the first time Seattle’s loss has been Chicago’s gain: The city stole Boeing from Seattle when the aerospace giant moved its headquarters in 2001. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has talked with Bezos “several times” about bringing Amazon jobs to the city, a spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune. Emanuel has lured McDonald’s, Kraft Heinz, Motorola and many other big names into the city. In 2001, Chicago won Boeing from Seattle when the aerospace giant moved its headquarters.

But Chicago has some problems: It won’t have much space for the 500,000 square feet Amazon wants in its first phase, and the cash-strapped city won’t be able to offer the kinds of incentive packages others will.

Unemployment (Chicago-Joliet-Naperville): 4.8 percent

Median home value: $223,400

Median rent (one-bedroom apartment): $1,100

Boston, Massachusetts

Amazon has facilities in Boston, and, in the suburb of North Reading, its robotics unit makes the machines that roam Amazon’s warehouses.(Michael Dwyer / AP, file)
Amazon has facilities in Boston, and, in the suburb of North Reading, its robotics unit makes the machines that roam Amazon’s warehouses.(Michael Dwyer / AP, file)

The region’s universities, from Harvard to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, churn out the business graduates and highly technical engineers Amazon hires in droves.  Amazon has facilities in Boston, and in the suburb of North Reading its robotics unit makes the machines that roam Amazon’s warehouses.

The Boston area already is home to Amazon competitors like the e-commerce home furnishings company Wayfair and content delivery network company Akamai. Website TripAdvisor’s headquarters are in nearby Cambridge.

Unemployment (Boston-Cambridge-Quincy): 4.0 percent

Median home value: $560,300

Median rent (one-bedroom apartment): $1,690

Denver, Colorado

Denver has an up-and-coming tech scene, relative proximity to Seattle, and cost-of-living advantages over other potential hubs. (Charlie Riedel / AP, file)
Denver has an up-and-coming tech scene, relative proximity to Seattle, and cost-of-living advantages over other potential hubs. (Charlie Riedel / AP, file)

Denver has an up-and-coming tech scene, relative proximity to Seattle, and cost-of-living advantages over other potential hubs. And for Amazon, a company that has reshaped downtown Seattle in its image, the ability to be an immediate corporate champion in a city that lacks one could be inviting.

Aurora, which shares Denver’s metro area, will be bidding for the site, according to the city’s development council.

Unemployment (Denver-Aurora-Broomfield): 2.4 percent

Median home value: $385,600

Median rent (one-bedroom apartment): $1,070

New York City

The nation’s largest city has been on an ambitious push to broaden its strengths in finance and media and into high-tech.(Julio Cortez / AP, file)
The nation’s largest city has been on an ambitious push to broaden its strengths in finance and media and into high-tech.(Julio Cortez / AP, file)

The nation’s largest city has been on an ambitious, state- and city-backed push to broaden its strengths in finance and media and into high-tech, but it is short on Amazon’s long-term request for 8 million square feet of affordable office space.

Unemployment: 4.7 percent

Median home value: $686,400

Median rent (one-bedroom apartment): $2,090

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh, the former steel capital, boasts more affordable space for a campus than some other potential competitors.(Keith Srakocic / AP, file)
Pittsburgh, the former steel capital, boasts more affordable space for a campus than some other potential competitors.(Keith Srakocic / AP, file)

The former steel capital boasts more affordable space for a campus than some other potential competitors. It’s home to Carnegie Mellon University, a technology powerhouse with a particular strength in robotics. And, in  luring a research hub for ride-hailing service Uber, the city has shown a willingness to try to lean on big tech to spur economic growth.

Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto tweeted Thursday morning that he was “on it.”

Peduto has a reputation for bending backwards for big business; he told The New York Times last September that when it came to bringing tech companies to town, “You can either put up red tape or roll out the red carpet. If you want to be a 21st-century laboratory for technology, you put out the carpet.”

Unemployment: 5.4 percent

Median home value: $124,100

Median rent (one-bedroom apartment): $740

San Francisco, California

In San Francisco, housing and other costs would weigh against expansion by Amazon. The pickings for corporate campuses are slim after growth by the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook. (Eric Risberg / AP, file)
In San Francisco, housing and other costs would weigh against expansion by Amazon. The pickings for corporate campuses are slim after growth by the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook. (Eric Risberg / AP, file)

The center of the high-tech universe runs from San Francisco south to Silicon Valley, and is home to the largest base of software developers in the U.S.

Amazon has a growing footprint in the area, with 970 open jobs listed there on Thursday — the second-most openings behind Seattle.

Housing and other costs would weigh against expansion. And the pickings for sprawling corporate campuses are slim after growth by the likes of Apple, Google and Facebook. The city’s housing crunch, as well as the broader Bay Area’s cost of living and traffic congestion troubles, are years ahead of Seattle’s budding big-city problems.

Unemployment (San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont): 3.9 percent

Median home value: $1,227,900

Median rent (one-bedroom apartment): $2,440

Toronto, Canada

The Toronto area has a history in a wide range of technologies, including as home of former smartphone king BlackBerry. (Warren Toda / European Pressphoto Agency, file)
The Toronto area has a history in a wide range of technologies, including as home of former smartphone king BlackBerry. (Warren Toda / European Pressphoto Agency, file)

Toronto was recently called North America’s fastest-growing tech city by real estate and investment firm CBRE, and sports a well-educated and diverse workforce. Greater Toronto has a history in a wide range of technologies, as the home of former smartphone king BlackBerry, and, more recently, clusters of researchers and startups working on artificial intelligence.

Stepping outside the U.S. could also mean Amazon can work with a friendly government: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been trying to encourage tech companies to invest more in Canada — he even visited Washington state in May — while President Trump has attacked Amazon on Twitter. More importantly, Trudeau and Canada have been much more open to immigration for foreign workers, whom Amazon employs in large numbers.

But Toronto is also expensive, with a higher median home value than New York City — so high that the city recently enacted a 15 percent tax on foreign home buyers.

Unemployment: 7.1 percent

Median home value: $732,292 (Toronto Star)

Median rent (one-bedroom apartment): $1,301 (RentJungle)

Seattle Times real estate reporter Mike Rosenberg contributed to this report.