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4 wildest stunts for Amazon's second headquarters: Cities compete for 50,000 jobs

Nathan Bomey
Jeff Bezos speaking at the new New York Economic Club luncheon in New York on Oct. 27, 2016.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Several American cities are delivering prime pitches to Amazon as the retail tech giant weighs its option for a second headquarters in North America.

While traditional factors such as talent, real estate, costs, taxes, transit and quality of life are likely to win the day, a little creativity can't hurt.

Some cities got downright wacky with their efforts to get Amazon's attention in a crowded field, lured by the company's tantalizing promise to invest $5 billion and add up to 50,000 jobs.

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This contest is like trying to get a prospective employer's attention in a job search with hundreds of qualified applicants. You need something to set you apart, otherwise you'll get lost in the shuffle.

Here's how several areas are trying to stick out:

Talk about prickly.

Tucson economic development group Sun Corridor sent a 21-foot saguaro cactus to Amazon's Seattle base to communicate that there is room for Amazon to grow there.

Amazon, which said it couldn't accept gifts, donated it to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Sun Corridor spokeswoman Laura Shaw said the group achieved its goal: "to be bold and creative in sending a message."

The area's more substantive pitch emphasizes its workforce, universities and "booming downtown," she told the Arizona Republic in an email.

This would represent the very essence of a company town. Though even Dearborn, Mich., home to Henry Ford, never changed its named to Ford.

Stonecrest's City Council voted to de-annex 345 acres of land and asked the Georgia General Assembly to officially rename the property in the tech giant's honor.

It was a nice gesture, if a bit dramatic. But if Amazon lands in this area, proximity to centralized, transit and business hub Atlanta would probably be the reason.

To promote Detroit's bid, Spartan head coach Mark Dantonio and Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh both wore headsets with the logo #AmazonDetroit.

It was perhaps the only time in which the rival teams will agree on something. The coordinated promotion got significant airtime on national television.

But if Amazon lands in Detroit, it will probably be because of the city's ample downtown property, low cost of living and connections to nearby talent in Canada.

Another element of Detroit's bid. "They can contribute to its common good and still be extraordinarily successful as a company," MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon told the Detroit Free Press.

Birmingham, Ala. put gigantic Amazon boxes throughout the area.

Birmingham and Jefferson County coordinated a campaign to put makeshift Amazon boxes throughout the area.

The boxes were paired with a slick website and social media campaign — search Twitter for #bringatob.

"We're very sincere about this effort," Birmingham Mayor William Bell said.

While the boxes might draw attention, the campaign's best shot at landing Amazon may rest on the appeal of contributing to "the redefinition of a community that is already in the midst of an accelerated transition," Jefferson County commissioner David Carrington said.

Dozens of regions throughout the country are submitting more conventional bids, including:

--Westchester County, N.Y. is emphasizing its three commuter rail lines in proximity to New York City.

--Cincinnati, Ohio is emphasizing regional cooperation and tax incentives in its appeal to Amazon. The city is coordinating a bid with Dayton, Ohio and northern Kentucky.

--Louisville, Ky. hopes that its status as a major logistical hub gets Amazon's attention.

--Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y. hope that the region's efforts reinvent itself in the post-industrial age appeals to Amazon's entrepreneurial grit.

--Gary, Ind. took out a full-page ad in The New York Timeswith its pitch. But the more economically vibrant Indianapolis probably has the Hoosier state's best shot.