There are a lot of good reasons for Amazon to choose Pittsburgh, Boston, or Austin. But:
I. Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post in 2013. The paper has subsequently apparently prospered. Most notably they were able to triple their engineering staff – presumably largely from pulling from other communities. According to Fortune:
Bezos has no operational role at the Post, but he does keep close tabs. He meets by phone every other week with the news organization’s top managers, including Baron and Post publisher Fred Ryan, former president of Allbritton Communications, whom Bezos recruited to replace Graham’s niece, Katharine Weymouth. Twice a year the team goes to Seattle for an afternoon of meetings with Bezos, followed by dinner.
For an executive known for focus, this is strongly suggestive of someone inclined further increase a presence in DC.
II. If the largest passion outside of Amazon is not the Washington Post, but rockets and deep space exploration and mining, there is really one city to have a heavy presence in. It’s no longer Los Angeles, once the king of aerospace. Even assuming that Blue Origin is to be entirely financed from his own pockets, the leverage one could have by gaining political influence is not negligible. From The Washingtonian:
Mattis’s regulatory sway over Bezos’s rocket company, Blue Origin—which plans to pursue national-security launch contracts—was important enough for Bezos to host him in Seattle last year.
III. The biggest party pad on the East Coast is rocking forward in renovations:
The Washingtonian got the designs for the $12 million renovation of the $23 million home, and predicts they will be complete by December — auspicious since Amazon said the decision would be made by then. The sums may be rounding error – he does have similar luxury available in a private home in New York but seeing the home in person telegraphs the intent.
The speculated advantage about using a heavy DC presence to lobby the government is likely right; the location in DC in Embassy Row suggests an advantage in lobbying all governments.
IV. Montgomery County Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Washington D.C. proper all made the final cut of 20.
Some location may make an offer too good to refuse on taxation and other benefits. Seeing the fleets of people living in twelve story glass and marble luxury housing that now populates almost every block between the Capitol and the Nationals ballpark looks unmistakably like some tech city’s infill and I’d say it’s the odds on favorite now Amazon will be the one doing the infilling.