‘Trump has scared the bejesus out of everyone’: How Canada could win the Amazon sweepstakes – Business

Handicapping the Amazon sweepstakes has become something of a cottage industry in the last few weeks.

Predictions of which city will land the company’s coveted second headquarters cite everything from the bright lights of big cities like New York and Boston to Denver’s crisp Rocky Mountain air to Chicago’s spot as a hurricane-free haven.  

The vestiges of our latent national inferiority complex might trigger a belief that the golden goose of corporate relocations couldn’t possibly land here.

Before last November that may well have been true, but no longer. Now, the idea of Amazon choosing Canada isn’t just possible, it’s probable.  

“If Trump wasn’t president I don’t think we’d be having quite this conversation,” said Richard Florida, an urban studies theorist at the University of Toronto. “Trump has scared the bejesus out of everyone.”

The case for Canada

Every city with at least a puncher’s chance of landing Amazon can check off a few boxes on the company’s wish list.

More than a million people? No problem. International airport and quick routes out of town? Done and done. Tax breaks? We’ll see what we can do. Affordable housing? Well, maybe not, but did we mention our beautiful waterfront and walkable streets?  

Of all its criteria, the ability to draw a top-notch workforce may be Amazon’s lone non-negotiable requirement.  

To fill the 50,000 jobs at an eventual 8.1-million square foot headquarters, Amazon needs a city that can provide home-grown talent, as well as appeal to a class of global programming mavens who can choose where to live.

For technology companies preoccupied with luring the best and brightest from around the world, the Trump administration’s America First economic strategy is more than a little troubling. At the core of the worries is a White House crackdown on the H-1B visa program — the doorway into the U.S. for thousands of software engineers and other highly skilled foreign workers.

Called the “genius visa” and America’s secret economic weapon, H-1B is credited with supplying the programming horsepower that built Silicon Valley into what it is today. At Facebook, for instance, foreign guest workers make up 15 per cent of the staff.

Antipathy towards that visa from the Trump administration, combined with its attempted Muslim ban and a potential Mexico border wall, is unsettling not only for the tech industry, but also for international workers who may now be second-guessing the wisdom of…

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