One woman is leading Amazon's search for a new headquarters - and her past reveals important clues about where it will be

Holly Sears Sullivan


Holly Sears Sullivan, 45, is leading Amazon's HQ2 search.

  • Holly Sears Sullivan, 45, is leading Amazon's HQ2 search, and she has strong ties to Nashville and the Washington, DC area - both of which are on the short list for Amazon's new headquarters.
  • Prior to joining Amazon in 2016, Sullivan led economic development teams in the Nashville area and Montgomery County, Maryland, which is adjacent to Washington, DC.
  • According to her LinkedIn profile, Sullivan is currently based in Washington, DC.
  • During her time in Nashville, Sullivan negotiated a deal that delivered a 1-million-square-foot Amazon distribution facility to nearby Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Amazon's search for the site of its new headquarters, called HQ2, is being led by a woman whose past might offer clues as to which city will win the company's highly-hyped contest.

Holly Sears Sullivan, 45, joined Amazon two years ago in April 2016 from an economic development position in Montgomery County, Maryland. Montgomery County, along with nearby Washington, DC and Northern Virginia, are on Amazon's HQ2 short list.
Holly Sears Sullivan

Maryland Economic Development Association

Sullivan joined Amazon two years ago in April 2016.


Sullivan is now the head of worldwide economic development at Amazon, and she's based in the Washington, DC, area, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Prior to joining Amazon, Sullivan spent more than 15 years working to attract and retain businesses in local communities - first in the Nashville area, which is also on Amazon's HQ2 short list, and later in Montgomery County.

Now, she's on the other end of those dealings, as she leads tours of the 20 cities that Amazon is scouting for the site of its new headquarters.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

In Maryland, Sullivan was president of the public-private Montgomery Business Development Corp., which has since been replaced with the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation.In the Nashville area, Sullivan led economic development efforts in two neighboring counties - Rutherford County and Wilson County - from 1999 to 2012. Advertisement

In 2001, at the age of 28, she was selected to be Wilson County's development director after a nationwide search of more than 42 applicants. Prior to that, she was the county's planning director.

Later she moved to Rutherford County's Chamber of Commerce, where she negotiated a deal that delivered a 1-million-square-foot Amazon distribution facility to Murfreesboro, which is about 45 minutes outside of Nashville.

In 2011, Sullivan was named to Nashville Business Journal's 40 under 40, and in 2015, she was one of two co-chairs named by the International Council of Shopping Centers to its Washington regional panel on leadership.Advertisement

According to the Maryland Economic Development Association, Sullivan's work in the Nashville area led to the creation of more than 28,000 net new jobs as a result of 302 projects representing more than $7.5 billion in capital investments. Sullivan also led two fundraising campaigns for the area that exceeded $8.5 million.

Could Sullivan's ties to DC and Nashville influence Amazon?

Holly Sears Sullivan


In Maryland, Sullivan was president of the public-private Montgomery Business Development Corp.

Little is known about Sullivan's personal life. A Nashville native, she earned her Master of Science degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Tennessee.Advertisement

In a 2011 interview with the Nashville Business Journal, Sullivan revealed a few details about what she's learned during her career.

"There are always challenges; it is how you handle them that matters most," she said. Sullivan also said that she's learned to "listen more" and "talk less."

It remains to be seen whether Sullivan's ties to Nashville and the Washington, DC area could influence Amazon's HQ2 search. Advertisement

David Petr, president and CEO of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, told the Baltimore Sun in January that Sullivan's past wouldn't sway Amazon.

"I don't think Holly has an influence either way," Petr said. Maryland state Del. Bill Frick, a Democrat from Montgomery County, shared a different view.Advertisement

"I think it's a good thing," Frick, who knows Sullivan, told the Sun of her role in Amazon's search process. "She would know the human capital of Montgomery County."

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