amazonpenn
Design by Laura Gao

Students and faculty are working together to entice Amazon to construct its second headquarters in Philadelphia.

The online retail conglomerate recently announced that it is looking to build a second $5 billion headquarters somewhere in the United States and asked Americans to submit applications detailing the benefits of their cities. The company indicated that it preferred a city with a population of more than a million people and "a stable and business-friendly environment" for its future headquarters in its request

The announcement triggered a bidding war among cities looking to attract the company's investment. Both Penn President Amy Gutmann and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney have made arguments for why Philadelphia would be the ideal location for Amazon's new headquarters. 

Wharton faculty have also partnered with the city of Philadelphia to launch the Wharton-Amazon Writing Competition, which consists of two competitions, one for undergraduate applicants and one for MBA applicants.   

For the competition, which recently closed submissions on Oct. 5, participants were tasked with writing memos for the Philadelphia city government arguing why Philadelphia would be a great fit for Amazon. Winners, who will be selected by a proposal team at Philadelphia's Department of Commerce, will be able to meet senior city officials, go to lunch with Wharton Vice Dean and Director Lori Rosenkopf, and be featured on Wharton’s website. 

Director of the Wharton Communication Program Lisa Warshaw, who is running the competition, said the program is a way to get Penn business students writing about and involved in the community.

“It's a chance to let our students help the city about something they’re really passionate about,” Warshaw said.

Ranajoy Sarkar, a Wharton MBA student with a background in pharmacy, submitted an entry for the competition. He said he hopes the new headquarters will bring jobs to Philadelphia. 

“Amazon establishing a base close to where I live and I go to school — that would mean employment opportunities,” he said.

Ted Lord, a Wharton MBA student who lives in Philadelphia with his family, also said he hopes that having Amazon in the city can help spur development and business growth.

“There’s a growing tech scene and entrepreneurial scene, and having the likes of Amazon and the highly educated people it attracts to the region could really help that sector grow even more and help out the entire region,” Lord said.

In addition to the Wharton-led writing competition, Penn student groups The Sign.al and the Marketing Undergraduate Student Establishment have also launched the Amazon HQ2 to Philly Case Competition. Unlike the Wharton-Amazon Writing Competition, the case competition is open to all Penn students.

Wharton senior Laura Gao, who is one of the organizers of the competition, said the case competition is a way to bring together students from different backgrounds.

“You need to know business, tech, policy for this to be a great proposal,” Gao said. 

Participants in the Amazon HQ2 to Philly Case Competition will be judged by faculty members such as Wharton professor Gad Allon, who is the director of the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology. Finalists will then pitch their ideas directly to Mayor Kenney.

Wharton marketing professor David Reibstein said that he believes Philadelphia has a compelling case to be the location of Amazon’s next headquarters.

“Relative to some of the other cities they might consider, the cost of living and housing is pretty reasonable,” Reibstein said. “Philadelphia has more universities, more students and that would be a real asset.”

He added that having Amazon’s second headquarters in Philadelphia could help revitalize the city’s image.

“The city paid a lot and bent over backwards to have the Eagles here and the Eagles play eight games a year. Imagine what it would be to have Amazon playing here 365 days a year,” Reibstein said. 

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