Halifax Pitches Amazon With Lobsters, Bagpipes -- And Startups

  • City Mayor Mike Savage submitting proposal to tech company
  • Halifax expanding into tech with growth of millennials

Amazon Is Hunting for 'HQ2' for 50,000 Workers

Halifax may be one of the smallest cities vying for Amazon.com Inc.’s second headquarters, but what it lacks in heft it makes up for with lobsters, beer and a new generation of startups, according to its mayor.

The city of 403,000 on Canada’s east coast has traditionally relied on fishing and shipbuilding but has been expanding into technology, attracting firms such as International Business Machines Corp.

“Lobsters and fiddles and bagpipes are really cool but they’re not a value proposition,” Mike Savage said in an interview at Bloomberg’s Toronto office. “There’s no better place in the world to have a drink than Halifax at our many bars and restaurants, but it doesn’t pay the bills. So we’ve been trying to add to that over the last number of years.”

Here’s Savage’s Amazon pitch:

  • Millennials: The city has long struggled with its demographics, with nearly a quarter of the population over the age of 60. But 2016 marked a shift: the 25-to-39-year-old cohort increased by a record 3,800 people, as the job market improved. Halifax is also growing via immigration, with the province of Nova Scotia accepting 1,000 Syrian refugees so far, and international students, who comprise 20 percent of university enrollments.
  • Affordable Housing: The average price of a property in Halifax was C$288,000 ($234,000) in August, about one-third of Toronto’s and a fraction of the equivalent C$852,000 in Amazon’s Seattle headquarters. Apartments and condos are going up to match the population influx, with housing starts rising 37 percent in the first six months of this year.
  • Burgeoning Tech: Companies haven’t looked to Halifax traditionally as an innovator, Savage said. “They’ve seen us more as a girlfriend than a wife, or a boyfriend than a husband," he said. “You visit, but you don’t necessarily stay, ya know?" That’s changing. Its so-called ocean cluster has more than 60 companies focused on technology related to the sea.
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