There’s a code word that cities are using to refer to Amazon’s HQ2 project, but the company says it means something else

  • A code word that has apparently been used to discuss Amazon’s HQ2 project has leaked, as was first reported by The News & Observer.
  • At least two failed pitche include mentions of a “Project Golden” directly in relation to the HQ2 project.
  • Amazon denies that this is the name it has been using to discuss HQ2 internally.
  • Still, it’s pretty clear that Amazon does see this as a golden opportunity for cities around the country.

As records from cities and towns not chosen for Amazon’s 20-city short list for HQ2 start to get released either voluntarily or through freedom of information requests, we’re getting a better picture of what it was like to submit a bid.

The failed bid by North Carolina’s Catawba County – revealed in records reviewed by the local newspaper, The News & Observer – shows a term that Amazon appears to use when referring to its second headquarters: “Project Golden.”

“It is with great enthusiasm the Hickory [metropolitan statistical area] submits the attached response for project Golden (HQ2),” Scott Millar, president of the county’s economic development office, wrote to Amazon, the records show. The letter was addressed to “Site Manager Golden.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen mention of Project Golden. In September, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Amazon was using the name to describe HQ2. According to the News & Observer, Frisco, Texas, submitted a proposal entitled “Project Golden Headquarters (HQ2.)”

Amazon has denied that “Project Golden” is a term it uses to discuss HQ2.

“The speculation about this name is wrong – Mr. Golden was the name of the mail clerk to whom the submissions were to be addressed. The project has always been referred to internally at Amazon as HQ2,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to Business Insider.

Still, it’s clear that Amazon does see HQ2 as a golden opportunity for localities, with the promise of 50,000 jobs and a total of $5 billion invested into the chosen local economy over 10 years.

There are also some potential downsides to HQ2 coming to a smaller city, however, including the detonation of a “prosperity bomb” that could change its very nature. Still, most people around the country say that they would like Amazon’s HQ2 to come to their city, and that the potential upsides outweigh the potential downsides.