Battle hots up to secure Amazon's $5bn new HQ
Second company headquarters in North America would create up to 50,000 jobs and tens of thousands of spin-off jobs
It is the prize of a lifetime - a US$5 billion investment creating 50,000 well-paid jobs that everyone wants but only one US city will get.
From East to West, from North to South, metropolises across the United States are locked in a frenzied bidding war desperate to woo Amazon into favouring them as the site of the e-commerce giant's second headquarters.
From $7bn in tax breaks in Newark, New Jersey - 50 years ago aflame by deadly race riots - to a giant cactus shipped inter-state, bids range from the colossally ambitious to the silly before Thursday's deadline for submissions.
The e-commerce juggernaut announced last month that it planned to invest more than $5bn in opening Amazon HQ2, a second company headquarters in North America that would create up to 50,000 jobs and tens of thousands of spin-off jobs.
"We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters," promised the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, America's second-richest billionaire worth $85.8bn.
The company's unusual announcement unleashed nationwide competitive juices as some of America's most glittering cities - such as New York and Chicago - vie with lesser-known backwaters, such as Alberquerque, New Mexico, looking to exit oblivion.
"Let any state go and try to beat that package," announced a typically bombastic New Jersey governor Chris Christie on behalf of Newark's bid.
New Jersey dangled the prospect of $5bn in tax incentives over 10 years, $1bn in property tax abatement and wage tax waivers that would allow Amazon employees to keep around $1bn of their hard earned money over 20 years.
As part of New York's metropolitan area, Newark fulfills Amazon's preference for places with more than one million people, a business-friendly environment and urban or suburban locations able to attract and retain strong technical talent.
But that wishlist has not stopped smaller contenders resorting to gimmicks in a bid to win attention and perhaps circumvent the stipulations from Amazon.
The Atlanta suburb of Stonecrest, Georgia has offered to surrender 345 acres to create a new city called Amazon.
"They have an eternal brand if they create and live in Amazon," Mayor Jason Lary told Fox Business. "Their own zipcode."
Birmingham, Alabama, meanwhile, erected giant replicas of Amazon's distinctive grey shipping boxes downtown, while a business group in Tucson, Arizona, uprooted a 6.5-metre cactus and shipped it to Amazon's Seattle head office.
"Unfortunately, we can't accept gifts (even really cool ones)," tweeted the retailer in response, saying they had donated it to the Desert Museum.
Then there have been the letters. The basketball legend Michael Jordan reportedly wrote to Mr Bezos recommending Charlotte, North Carolina.
So did the city of Gary, Indiana - part of the US Rust Belt where more than a third of the population is believed to live in poverty.
"I know locating [to Gary] may seem far-fetched," it said in an advertisement taken out in The New York Times.
"But far-fetched is what we do in America. It was far-fetched for 13 scrawny American colonies to succeed against the might of the British Empire."
Gary did not make the top-10 shortlist drawn up by Moody's Analytics, which put Austin, Texas in pole position, but included Atlanta, Philadelphia, the burgeoning tech hub Pittsburgh, the New York metropolitan area and Boston and Salt Lake City.
Chicago, America's third-largest city, has also jumped into the fray but "to ensure the competitiveness" of the bid, made few details available.
A study commissioned by World Business Chicago claimed that in 17 years, HQ2 would generate $341bn in total spending, including $71bn in salaries.
But not everyone is over the moon at the prospect of Amazon, which has attracted criticism for offshore tax dodging, coming to town.
Writing to Mr Bezos on Tuesday, leaders from more than 80 civic groups warned that Amazon must be ready to hire locally, pay its fair share of taxes and make sure that the entire community benefits.
"We're expecting Amazon to pay your fair share if you end up being our neighbour," it said.
Updated: October 18, 2017 10:23 AM