Amazon asked cities that submitted an HQ2 proposal to provide endless data, including the price of an avocado at Whole Foods and the cost of a Starbucks tall coffee

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  • New York City's 253-page HQ2 proposal to Amazon - posted online this week - reveals how much data the e-commerce giant requested from states and cities as it searched for the site of its second headquarters.
  • Amazon asked about everything from the cost of a Starbucks coffee to education systems to nearby weekend destinations in a 29-page request for information earlier this year.
  • This trove of data Amazon collected during its HQ2 hunt could be valuable for the company in the future.

As cities and states battled to win Amazon's second headquarters, they provided the e-commerce giant with an overwhelming amount of data.

On Friday, it became clear just how much information Amazon wanted. On Monday, New York City posted its 253-page HQ2 proposal online. The city quickly took down the extensive proposal, but The New York Times downloaded the document before its removal and published it in full on Friday.

Read more: New York finally revealed the HQ2 rendering that helped it win Amazon over to Long Island City

"After Amazon announced its shortlist in January, it gave cities a 29-page request for information that required far more precision and was more about practicalities than flash," the Times reports.

Amazon's questions, as seen in the proposal, are truly far-reaching. And, New York City willingly provided the information.

"Specify the cost of a basket of goods in your community," reads one section. "The basket is from Whole Foods: gallon of 2% milk, loaf of whole wheat bread, and an avocado. Also, the cost of Starbucks tall coffee, movie ticket, monthly gym membership (individual) at a YMCA (if U.S.), dry cleaning of a shirt, and a gallon of gas."

New York City dutifully answered the questions - an avocado costs $1.25 whether purchased in Midtown West or in Long Island City, though you can get a slightly better deal on movie tickets at AMC in Manhattan than UA Kaufman in Queens ($16.29 versus $16.40).

Here are just some of the things Amazon asked about:

  • Demographics of the city, including professional breakdown, race, and education levels.
  • "Big ideas" that could lead to partnerships between Amazon and education centers. The State University of New York suggested an "Amazon Scholars Program" to enroll Amazon employees in SUNY programs of their choice.
  • Detailed information on education systems, from pre-kindergarten through colleges. New York City provided data such as average SAT scores, third graders' performance levels on mathematics testing, and how close colleges are to proposed HQ2 sites.
  • "Quality of life" measures including health and fitness opportunities, hate crimes, weekend travel destinations, and the cost of living. The proposal highlights SoulCycle, notes that hate crimes are on the decline, and suggests that Amazon employees can visit Dia: Beacon or Fire Island on the weekend.
  • Community challenges. New York City's biggest challenges - according to the proposal - are inequality, transportation, and sustainability.
  • Extensive real estate and zoning information on potential sites for HQ2. Amazon asked for details down to utility providers, parking options, and nearby restaurants.
  • Tax policies and government organizations. That includes how taxes will impact employees, with New York City estimating that New York city and state taxes will deduct $9,060 from an Amazon worker earning $100,000 annually.

The depth of the data requested by Amazon is especially interesting because the company likely collected similarly extensive information on all of its 20 HQ2 finalists. This trove of data could be valuable for the company moving forward.

"Amazon has a godlike view of what's happening in digital commerce, and now cities have helped give it an inside look at what's happening in terms of land use and development across the US," Stacy Mitchell, a director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a think tank based in Washington, DC, told Business Insider's Hayley Peterson in November.

"Amazon will put that data to prodigious use in the coming years to expand its empire," she continued.

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