Amazon’s shocking announcement that it is looking to build a $5 billion second North American headquarters campus is only a few hours old, but cities are already lining up to pursue the online retail giant.
Chicago Business reports that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has spoken to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos about the matter. GeekWire tabbed Chicago as a logical place for Amazon’s next HQ, and as Chicago Business reports, the company already has a sizable presence there. Amazon is in the middle of building eight warehouses in Illinois, and it recently recently doubled the size of its downtown Chicago office, which already employs 200 people.
On the other side of the border, Toronto plans to make a pitch to Amazon.
“I firmly believe that Toronto is a prime candidate to host Amazon’s second headquarters in North America,” Toronto Mayor John Tory told CBC News in a statement, citing the “bold, innovative” city’s technology talent.
“City staff are working with Toronto Global to make sure we put together an attractive bid for this opportunity,” Tory said. “I will be leading the charge to make the case that Amazon should call Toronto home.”
Toronto’s status as a tech hub, as well as more business-friendly immigration policies could give it an advantage over U.S. cities.
Pittsburgh, another city we identified as a possible landing place for the new HQ, is getting involved in the bidding. In a tweet, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto posted a link to Amazon’s announcement, with the simple commentary “on it.”
— bill peduto (@billpeduto) September 7, 2017
The city of St. Louis appears ready to throw its hat into the ring. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said at an economic development forum in St. Louis this morning that the city is “putting together a team right now to make a very competitive” proposal. That team appears to include county officials as well.
— Steve Stenger (@StengerSTLCo) September 7, 2017
In an Amazon pun-heavy tweet, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said his city wants in on the action.
We think Philadelphia would be a PRIME location for Amazon that would make people SMILE! Look forward to submitting a proposal! https://t.co/l60Wn5BVdg
— Jim Kenney (@PhillyMayor) September 7, 2017
Nashville will make a proposal as well, according to Mayor Megan Barry.
— Megan Barry (@MayorMeganBarry) September 7, 2017
It looks like Hartford will craft a plan to woo Amazon as well. Luke Bronin, Hartford mayor, encouraged the area to work together to land Amazon.
Hey CT – We ready to define Hartford as a metro area of 1million? Work together and the possibilities are big https://t.co/Nup6E2KlTj
— Luke Bronin (@MayorBronin) September 7, 2017
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said he will do “whatever it takes” to land Amazon.
Bynum told the Tulsa World that the city plans to make a proposal.
“We recognize the competitive pool we are wading into here, but Tulsa’s history is that of a city that punches above its weight,” Bynum said. “Amazon is transforming the world, and Tulsa is positioned as the best place in the country for them to do so. We will submit a proposal to Amazon which makes that clear.”
When complete, Amazon expects the new campus to be a “full equal” to the company’s existing operations in its longtime home of Seattle, accommodating up to 50,000 high-paying jobs.
In its announcement of the search for a new campus, Amazon said it is looking at metropolitan areas with populations above 1 million, with urban and suburban locations that will draw top talent, “a stable and business-friendly environment,” and “communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options.”
Amazon’s request for proposals gives a deadline of Oct. 17, with a site selection and announcement slated for 2018. The ideal site, according to Amazon’s RFP, is less than 30 miles from a major population center, 45 minutes from a major airport, near several major roads and has immediate access to mass transit. Initially, Amazon is looking for at least 500,000 square feet of office space for the first phase in 2019, and could eventually take as much as 8 million square feet.
In the RFP, Amazon makes it clear that it is seeking concessions from cities interested in landing its second headquarters. The company mentions incentives like tax credits, permitting and fee reductions, workforce and relocation grants and more.
“Incentives offered by the state/province and local communities to offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs will be significant factors in the decision-making process,” according to the RFP.
It isn’t everyday that a huge company like Amazon announces plans for an Olympic-style bidding process for a major headquarters, but there is plenty of history of cities and states stumbling all over each other to throw big tax breaks and other incentives in order to land big businesses, said University of Washington Associate Professor of History Margaret O’Mara. Amazon’s call for incentives from local governments represents the continuation of this long-held trend.
“Companies that have really flush balance sheets are taking advantage of a system with long standing practices where if you want a tech company or any company to come to your town, you throw as many goodies at them as possible,” O’Mara said. “I would caution that as exciting as the possibility of being the site that lands the Amazon HQ might be for cities, I would want them to think about what the bigger tradeoffs might be if they are putting together a package to try and lure them to town.”
O’Mara, who focuses on the connection between tech and politics, cautioned these cities to be thoughtful of the package they put together and make sure that tax breaks and other concessions won’t nullify the positive effects of Amazon coming to town.
“In an age where cities and states are starved for resources, oftentimes in these efforts at economic development the costs of tax breaks for the city will far outweigh whatever benefits come from number of jobs created,” O’Mara said.