Amazon

Marti Mikkelson

A number of cities are going all-out in efforts to lure Amazon. There’s a big prize at stake. The online retail giant is planning to build a second headquarters, which could create up to 50,000 jobs. Milwaukee and Waukesha are among the communities expressing interest – but in a far more low-key way.

On a wall in Greg LeRoy's office is a frame with a custom-engraved wrench and a photo of workers in front of the Diamond Tool and Horseshoe factory in Duluth, Minn. It's from his days helping unions fight plant closings — when he first started digging into the convoluted financial relationship of corporations and local governments.

These days, LeRoy is the guy to call if you want to know about corporate subsidies. Lately, his phone has been ringing about one company in particular: Amazon.

Officials in Tucson, Ariz., uprooted a 21-foot-tall saguaro cactus and tried to have it delivered to Amazon's Seattle headquarters. Birmingham constructed giant Amazon boxes and placed them around the Alabama city. In Missouri, Kansas City's mayor bought a thousand items online from Amazon and posted reviews of each one.