Amazon finally narrowed the list of candidates to host its second headquarters down to 20 on Thursday.
The 20 finalists were picked from 238 cities from across the United States, Canada and Mexico to host what Amazon calls HQ2, a new facility that it expects to create 50,000 jobs. On top of that, the company estimates it will invest more than $5 billion in the city it ultimately chooses.
Amazon has been transparent about what it’s looking for in a potential headquarters — focusing on factors like the area’s proximity to airports, major highways and the city’s population center.
But which of the 20 cities is really going to offer those 50,000 employees the best quality of life?
MagnifyMoney researchers decided to do an analysis of the cities on Amazon’s HQ short list to determine which cities are the best to live in. We not only wanted to see which of these 20 cities offered a decent cost of living and relatively affordable housing, but also key quality of life factors like weather and the average commute time, and whether the housing stock has slack to support an influx of jobs.
The cities were rated on a scale of 100, based on these seven factors. Those rankings were summed and divided by seven for a highest possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of zero.
“We trust that Amazon is doing a great job of evaluating (and negotiating) the core criteria and key preferences they deem essential to their business operations,” said study author Kali McFadden, an analyst at LendingTree, the parent company of MagnifyMoney. “We wanted to take a closer look at what each of these cities can offer their rank and file employees, both local and transferred.”
Let’s start with the top three. MagnifyMoney gives Pittsburgh and Raleigh a tie for first place, both scoring 78 points.
Overall score: 78
Pittsburgh combines a low cost of living with a decent commute time of just 26 minutes. Bring a jacket. The weather is on the chilly side.
Overall score: 78
Dallas came in at no. 3.
Overall score: 69
New York City is the lowest-ranking finalist on the MagnifyMoney list, scoring poorly at 22. The Big Apple fell to the bottom of the pack for three key reasons: it has the highest living costs, highest marginal tax rates and longest commute time.
Northern Virginia and Montgomery County share the second-to-last place with a score of 29.
Interestingly, the current Amazon headquarters Seattle, only earned a score of 41 points, but we didn’t include it in the official rankings. Seattle would have been ranked in the 14th place if we had.
The data was gathered on the Metropolitan Statistical or Combined Statistical area for a city, except in the cases of Northern Virginia; Montgomery County, Md.; and Washington, D.C., as these finalists are, at least partly, part of the same statistical area.
County data was used for commute times and median monthly housing costs (county data was not available for the other factors). Similarly, county data was used for Newark, N.J., where available, because it is part of the New York City (another finalist) statistical area.
The U.S. Census American Community Survey (2016) was used for commute times and median housing costs, while the Census Housing Vacancy and Ownership data was used for vacancy metrics. Statistics Canada was used for Toronto data. Federal and local tax authority rate tables were used to derive marginal income tax rates for $100,000 in income. Weather data was derived from USClimateData.com and The Weather Network, while cost of living index data was sourced from Numbeo.com.