January 18, 2018

CT out of running for Amazon's HQ2

PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
Amazon's distribution center in Windsor.

Amazon has released a "short" list of cities it's considering for its second headquarters.

And, not surprisingly, Connecticut isn't on it.

The 20 potential cities include Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Montgomery County in Maryland, Nashville, Newark, New York City, Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Toronto and Washington D.C.

Last year, Amazon received bids from 238 cities and regions from across 54 states, provinces, districts and territories across North America. The company said it would make a decision in 2018. Connecticut pitched the Hartford and Stamford regions while individual cities like New Haven and Danbury also put in bids.

"I don't think we had a chance at all given the criteria in the request for proposals," said Quinnipiac University Professor Emeritus David Cadden. "They're looking for an urban center in excess of a million people, [and] wanted to be nearby an international airport and Bradley [in Windsor Locks] doesn't cut it. Not all criteria are weighted equally but I think we came up short on those criteria that received the heaviest weight."

New Haven is the city that comes closest to the "cosmopolitan environment" Amazon is seeking, but the closest international airports are in New York, Cadden said.

"I think [Amazon] basically had it down to a much smaller list already and they're utilizing this [appeal] for publicity and to extract the maximum benefits from the top candidates," he said.

Called HQ2, the new facility will cost at least $5 billion to construct and operate, and will create as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.

Hartford and East Hartford teamed up for a bid, as did the town of Enfield and the Stamford region, but none of them were selected.

"Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough - all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity," Holly Sullivan of Amazon Public Policy said in a statement. "Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation."

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement Thursday that, despite the disappointment, "we remain committed to working with business leaders throughout the world and right here at home to grow jobs in our state. We received positive feedback from Amazon officials, but at the end of the day, did not have a large enough metropolitan area for this particular proposal."

Catherine Smith, commissioner of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, which coordinated the state's bid, called the effort a worthwhile but "uphill climb."

"Overall this exercise has proven to be beneficial as we continue to promote the many assets of Connecticut and compete for businesses across the globe," she said.

Amazon said it evaluated each of the bids based on the criteria it previously outlined, such as proximity to a major airport and ability to attract tech talent.

In the coming months, the company said it will work with each of the locations to "dive deeper" into their proposals, obtain more information and evaluate how the city could accommodate Amazon's hiring plans and benefit its workers and the local community.

Cities made splashy attempts to attract the company's attention. For example, Tuscon, Arizona sent a giant cactus to CEO Jeff Bezos and Stonecrest, Georgia offered to de-annex some of its land and rename it the city of Amazon.

Meanwhile, Kansas City Mayor Sly James gave five-star reviews to 1,000 random items on Amazon's website, which tied in the city's strengths into each post.

Amazon has said the second headquarters would be a "full equal" to its Seattle campus. The tech giant estimates its investments in Seattle from 2010 through 2016 resulted in an extra $38 billion to the city's economy.

HBJ staff reports are included in this story.

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