Amazon to set off incentives bidding war with second HQ search

8:54 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 Technology
Viewed from above, the Amazon Spheres sit before Day 1, the dominant building owned by the company in downtown Seattle, Wash. On Thursday, Amazon said it wants to build a second North American headquarters to rival its Seattle base of operations. (Kjell Redal/Seattle Times/TNS)

E-commerce giant Amazon said Thursday it’s in the market to build a second North American headquarters, a massive complex the company says one day could hold 50,000 jobs.

Amazon, in a request for proposals on its website, said it wants its “HQ2” to be the “equal” of its Seattle base of operations, which currently consists of 33 buildings covering more than 8 million square feet of office space. No doubt Georgia and Atlanta area officials will pitch for the project, and tout the region’s talent base and research universities such as Georgia Tech.

Amazon has corporate offices in Atlanta, as well as fulfillment centers for package delivery. The company’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods includes several Atlanta area locations.

A spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Economic Development said the agency would defer any comment to Amazon. 

Still the announcement got Atlanta’s real estate and economic development circles buzzing.

The Thursday morning announcement set off the largest corporate jobs recruitment bonanza in modern memory. It’s sure to ignite an incentives bidding war, and Amazon’s public launch of such a project sent a clear signal to state and local governments across North America: have your checkbooks ready.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
This angle looks across the foundation of another Amazon building being built near Amazon’s Doppler building at left, and its Spheres and Day 1 building at right, in downtown Seattle, Wash. On Thursday, Amazon said it wants to build a second North American headquarters to rival its Seattle base of operations. (Steve Ringman/Seattle Times/TNS)

Amazon asked governments to identify incentive programs such as tax credits, exemptions, grants for relocation and workforce and other cost reduction programs.

“The initial cost and ongoing cost of doing business are critical decision drivers,” the document said.

Job recruitment is often a secretive business, but some companies have chosen of late to go public with their plans, and in effect creating open bidding wars. Automakers Toyota and Mazda announced plans for a U.S. plant this year, and companies such as Tesla, Boeing and Archer Daniels Midland have made relocation or expansion plans public in recent years.

Corporate headquarters, particularly for such a massive company as Amazon, are coveted by lawmakers and business leaders for their quantity of high-paying jobs.

“Amazon HQ2 will be Amazon’s second headquarters in North America,” the company’s announcement said. “We expect to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs – it will be a full equal to our current campus in Seattle. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.”

Economic development officials have much to pitch in metro Atlanta. The region offers relatively affordable real estate, both in terms of existing buildings and raw land, and a skilled labor force. Atlanta also has landed in recent years the North American headquarters of Mercedes-Benz, a division and software development center by Honeywell, the headquarters of GE Digital and a software center from health care giant Anthem. 

A company said the response deadline to the RFP is Oct. 19, with a final decision expected next year. The company said it prefers a metro area of greater than 1 million residents and said it will consider “urban or suburban” locations to help attract and retain talent.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
FILE - In this Wednesday, June 18, 2014, file photo, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos demonstrates the new Amazon Fire Phone, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Amazon said it will consider greenfield sites as well as infill development areas.

The document said the company wants jurisdictions to “think creatively for viable real estate options, while not negatively affecting our preferred timeline.” Among the company’s requirements, are easy access to major highways, a location within 45 minutes of an international airport and direct mass transit access.

Amazon said its requirements would start with first phase of 500,000 square feet to 1 million square feet, but development of a campus rivaling the Seattle location is expected through 2027 and beyond.

Amazon said annual average compensation for the jobs is expected to be $100,000

Jobs would include software designers and engineers, corporate finance and executive roles.

“We are looking for a location with strong local and regional talent—particularly in software development and related fields—as well as a stable and business-friendly environment to continue hiring and innovating on behalf of our customers,” the company said.

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