Predictions abound for the victor of Amazon’s new headquarters. Will it go big or small?

Amazon’s whittling away of potential cities for its second headquarters from more than 200 to 20 has generated ample buzz. Although predictions about the which location will emerge as the victor are rampant, accurately forecasting the winner is a tough exercise. Regardless of which location seizes the price, it will result in a boon for air travel for that region.

Online behemoth Amazon recently released 20 destinations as contenders for its second headquarters, and aims to name a victor sometime in 2018. The criteria is pretty straightforward – a population of more than one million, an international airport, a friendly business climate, mass transit and an educated workforce.

The creation of Amazon’s second headquarters is worth USD5 billion to the winner and 50,000 new jobs.

Some of the contenders for the new headquarters are obvious – New York, Chicago and  Washington DC (the suburbs of Northern Virginia and Montgomery, Maryland are also on the list).

But other contenders are a bit more interesting, including Austin, Pittsburgh and Raleigh. Raleigh is a significant educational hub and research centre, while Pittsburgh is a growing technology hub. Austin has long been heralded as a business friendly region with businesses across several industries opening up offices in the region.

Seattle based Alaska Air Group has launched flights to both Raleigh and Pittsburgh during the last couple of years. When it introduced service to Raleigh in 2015, Alaska remarked it was linking two biotechnology hubs. Previously, ratings agency Fitch has highlighted Raleigh-Durham International airport’s service area is characterised by high income levels, lower than average unemployment and strong population growth.

Obviously existing service from Seattle is a positive, but the weight Amazon allots to those routes is not clear. Neither Raleigh nor Pittsburgh have robust mass transit systems, and may have a lower pool of educated residents than larger metropolitan areas. Both Alaska and Delta Air Lines operate flights from Seattle to Atlanta, which is also a contender for Amazon’s second headquarters. The city’s voters recently endorsed a plan to expand Atlanta’s mass transit system.

The Washington, DC area has emerged as a strong contender for Amazon’s second headquarters. In addition to meeting requirements for a educated workforce and mass transit (although the Washington DC Metro is plagued with problems), Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns local newspaper The Washington Post, and has a home in the region.

Amazon’s ultimate decision will be on of the most watched business developments in the US during 2018. And there’s no dearth of predictions for the ultimate victor.

The full list of shortlisted cities comprises:  Atlanta; Austin, Tex​as; Boston; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Miami; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville; Newark, New Jersey; New York; Northern Virginia; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Raleigh, ​North Carolina; Toronto, Canada (the only foreign location); and Washington​ DC.