For the mayors of the United States, Amazon.com's search for a second massive headquarters with up to 50,000 jobs began as a free advertising tour, an opportunity to make ingenious promotional videos and woo the retail giant with gifts to call the attention  But for those who represent the 20 cities recently chosen as finalists, the fun has become serious. Suddenly they are working through a severe set of instructions on how the narrowing will proceed, coming from a company famous for its dizzying speed and analysis of incisive data.
It is a process that Amazon insists on playing largely in private, offering a challenge to elected leaders who face questions from constituents about what taxpayer subsidies could be offered to the $ 675 billion company and its founder, Jeffrey Bezos.
"It was exciting to present the proposal, and it was exciting to be named to the shortlisted list, but now we have to go into detail," said Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, D. He highlighted the few details that Amazon has provided until this point, making this stage feel closer to the exit door than the finish line.  "We do not have any information at this time about what the company really needs."
For now, Walsh and other mayors of finalist cities are happy to revel in their fortune by going so far in the A drawing for mazon. Many were among the nearly 250 city leaders who met in Washington this week at a meeting of the US Conference of Mayors. UU., Enjoying the media and receiving congratulations from colleagues. It even prompted some to consider the political implications.
Four officials from different jurisdictions described how they received calls from Amazon describing the next steps. Executives from the company told them that they plan to go through the 20 finalist sites, some of which have up to half a dozen properties under consideration.
The secret will be paramount in the future, officials said they were instructed, which led them to talk about the details only on condition of anonymity.
An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment on the talks. The company plans to make a decision this year and would like to occupy its 500,000 square feet of office space in the new location as soon as possible.
Already the mayors of the finalist cities are working to distinguish themselves further, testing their launches while preparing to press their cases. Those from well-known destinations such as Boston and Washington promoted the depth and talent of their work forces, while others, including the mayors of Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; and Philadelphia, he recalled how expensive houses have become in those rival areas.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, D, suggested that Amazon would not even have to seek a second location if housing in Seattle had not become so expensive, forcing workers into smaller apartments further away from the office.
"Nobody wakes up and says:" You know what we're missing? A second seat. "The fact is that [tech companies] is paying more and more for talent, and that talent is increasingly miserable, "he said.
The mayors of smaller cities, including Nashville, Tennessee; Austin, Texas; Columbus and Raleigh, North Carolina, argued that their relative size would be an advantage.
" I think those cities will lead the future of the country, "said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, D." I think you're a helpless? No. But I enjoy the role. "
The newly elected Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, D, said the city has already proven to be a desirable center for businesses, including Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Delta Air Lines  "I could go on the list of companies that have really invested in this city, and have seen their return," he said.
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, D, said her city would benefit if Amazon chose a site in the District, Montgomery County, Maryland or Northern Virginia, all of which were named finalists despite their proximity, and economists and public policy experts have suggested that jurisdictions combine their offers and avoid being pushed to a bidding war.
Bowser said jurisdictions could work together on transportation and infrastructure if Amazon decided the area, but he was also happy to note the possible advantage his city had after That Bezos, owner of The Washington Post, bought a house in Washington recently.
"All the research and evidence suggest that corporate relocations track closely where the CEO lives," he said.
Some mayors in the final group are still wondering what kind of operations will include the second headquarters. Amazon explained in its initial search that it needed workers with a wide range of experience, and by naming the finalists said that "Amazon HQ2 will be a complete headquarters for Amazon, not a satellite office," suggesting it would not have a niche approach. .
Several mayors said they were aware of concerns that Amazon would put new tensions in housing prices and transportation networks, based on their experience in Seattle.
"I do not think you should ever pursue something as a game" Changing so because there could be a couple of associated problems, "said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, D." I think you use it to address problems. "
Amazon's request for discretion, however, left some mayors in the latter group, feeling trapped in a tug of war over how transparent it is to their efforts.
Amazon has a reputation for telling potential partners that it will cancel If the discussions were made public, negotiating the acquisition of Whole Foods for $ 13.1 billion, Amazon executives told the shopkeeper that he "reserved the right to end the talks if there were any leaks or rumors of interest," According to financial documents
But civic groups, public defenders and reporters – leery of a corporate gift behind closed doors – are now pushing the finalists To get details on exactly what they are offering to a company led by Bezos, which is personally worth an estimated $ 113.9 billion.
The Newark offer includes a report of $ 7 billion in grants, while Maryland officials have proposed $ 5 billion, and Illinois and Chicago combined to offer $ 2 billion or more.
"We know that billions of dollars are on the table, and taxpayers everywhere need to see these offers to decide if they want to amend them," said Greg LeRoy, executive director of the non-profit organization Good Jobs First, that criticizes corporate subsidies.
Some cities and states have responded by providing parts of their proposals but by writing subsidy details. Officials have demanded a variety of legal exemptions to refuse requests for public documents, according to an account on the collaborative journalism site Muckrock.com.
"People have concerns about what they have heard in Seattle or other cities," he said. Mayor of Newark Ras Baraka. "People say well, you should spend it on housing, you should spend it on this, you should spend it on that, what they do not understand is that without Amazon, that money is not there."
As former CEO of Pizza Hut, which oversaw corporate relocations, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, D, said he planned to reveal as little bidding as possible to help the city's opportunities.
"They asked us not to do it, and we decided that we were going to do what they said," he said. "The customer is always right".