Here Are The Northwest Places Making Longshot Bids For Amazon's HQ2

Oct 11, 2017

There's one week left for North American cities to assemble their bids to lure one of the biggest economic prizes in years, the second Amazon headquarters. At least half a dozen Pacific Northwest places plan to submit proposals.

Earlier this week, a top Amazon official speaking at the GeekWire Summit conference said the e-commerce giant is looking to grow and tap into a new talent pool beyond the Northwest. That raised fresh questions about the viability of contenders from this region for what Amazon calls its "HQ2."

Washington State Department of Commerce Director Brian Bonlender said he's asked officials at Seattle-based Amazon point blank, are you going to consider local communities.

"They told us, 'Yes, we are going to consider all proposals whether they are from inside Washington state, outside Washington state, in the city of Seattle, wherever.' They will consider them,” Bonlender said.

“We will give serious consideration to every HQ2 proposal we receive from across North America, including from communities across the Pacific Northwest,” added Amazon in an emailed statement to reporters Wednesday.

Northwest places that have publicly discussed bids include Tacoma, Spokane, Bremerton, greater Portland, metro Vancouver and suburban Victoria in Canada, and a joint bid involving Snohomish and King County, Washington and the Tulalip Tribes. 


Greater Portland Inc is the economic development agency leading a regional bid for the bi-state Portland/Vancouver, Washington area, which includes multiple possible Amazon HQ2 sites. 


"The proposal is coming along wonderfully," GPI Vice President of Regional Competitiveness Lloyd Purdy said. "I'm very excited." 

"Being in the same time zone is huge," Purdy continued. "And it's more affordable than their current area." 


Purdy said if he were an executive at Amazon, he would want to keep the second headquarters close enough to be able to get to it and meet with people there without lengthy travel. 


"We're think we're in that sweet spot," he said. "There's a chance for autonomy and innovation... I don't think we're too close." 


Amazon was not shy about asking for tax incentives or subsidies in its request for proposals. Both Bonlender and Purdy indicated the bids they were involved in would not go to town on that score. 


"Our region's value proposition is in our talent, our quality of life and connectivity and in our business climate," Purdy said in an interview Wednesday. 


Bonlender said Washington's state constitution does not allow offering cash upfront to private companies. He said the Inslee administration does favor legislative renewal of an expired state business tax credit for research and development. 


"It is something that Amazon would benefit from," Bonlender said. "That is certainly something that I know the governor would continue to support." 


In its request for proposals, Amazon expressed a preference for urban areas with more than one million people, an international airport, a highly educated labor pool that can fill up to 50,000 jobs, and “a stable and consistent business climate.” 


Spokane, Bremerton and greater Victoria among others would have a hard time achieving the population threshold. Bonlender said he specifically asked Amazon early in the process about "the population issue." 


"They said, 'We don't have a hard and fast rule at a million. That's sort of our preference, but we're not sure that any proposal is going to hit every one of these metrics exactly how we've asked,’" Bonlender recalled.


The deadline for communities to submit proposals to host Amazon's second headquarters comes next week on October 19. Amazon said the final selection and announcement will be made sometime in 2018.

UPDATED at 9:30 a.m. Thursday to add emailed statement from Amazon clarifying its executive's prior comments.