Tuesday, September 26th, 2017
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US online giant Amazon announced plans on Thursday for a second North American headquarters, calling on cities to submit proposals for a new hub in which it will invest more than $5 billion. The second headquarters, to be called HQ2, will be "a full equal to our Seattle headquarters," said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and chief executive, in a statement. "Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We're excited to find a second home."

The announcement highlights the extraordinary growth of Amazon, which was founded two decades ago as an online bookseller and has grown into one of the world's largest retailers, diversifying into streaming video, cloud computing and other sectors. The company, which has more than 380,000 employees worldwide, said it would add as many as 50,000 jobs for the new headquarters. It is already the eighth-largest US employer.

Amazon said it will be seeking bids from metropolitan areas with more than one million people - of which there are about 50 in the US - and with a "stable and business-friendly environment." It said it would consider "urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent" and is aiming for "communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options."

Amazon's campus in the northwest US state of Washington currently employs more than 40,000 people scattered across 33 buildings and 750,000 square meters (8.1 million square feet) of office space, according to a company fact sheet. Amazon has dozens of warehouses and data centers around the world and has invested heavily in artificial intelligence, resulting in its Echo "smart" speakers and its voice-controlled Alexa digital assistant.

The company recently bought up-scale US grocery chain Whole Foods Market for more than $13 billion, which will help its ambitions in that sector. Company founder Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post newspaper and the private space exploration firm Blue Origin, briefly overtook Bill Gates as the world's richest individual earlier this year due to a surge in Amazon's share price.

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