The Seattle area delivered its pitch for Amazon to stay at home as it seeks a second headquarters. Most expect the 522-page document to amount to a futile effort to convince the online retailer to build HQ2 in the orbit of its first.
The Seattle area woke up Sept. 7 to the news that Amazon planned to set up a second, equal headquarters, raising the prospect of a dramatic split between America’s fastest-growing company and its hometown.
The area delivered its pitch for Amazon to stay at home on Thursday: a 522-page document that most expect to amount to a futile effort to convince the online retailer to build its second headquarters in the orbit of its first.
The bid, sketched out by King County and Snohomish County executives earlier this month, offers 10 sites for HQ2, from Everett to Tukwila. Auburn, not included in the original grouping of sites, joined the proposal after the federal government decided to vacate a 129-acre complex earlier this month.
None of the proposed sites are in Seattle, where Amazon already employs more than 41,000 people in a corporate campus spread over dozens of buildings.
But Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess wrote a letter of support for the proposal. “We are confident the company will determine it’s already found the ideal home for growing, thriving, and doing business,” he wrote.
Tacoma and Pierce County submitted a separate bid on Wednesday. They declined to discuss specifics of the proposal, citing a preference for confidentiality. (Amazon says cities are free to share all components of their bids.)
Amazon’s public, continent-wide search was widely interpreted as an indication executives believed the company had outgrown Seattle, and, in all likelihood, the Pacific Northwest. Corporate consultants suspect the company is seeking to build a base elsewhere that it can use to hire from a different pool of university graduates, managers and engineers.
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The online retail giant, which has growing ambitions in logistics, groceries, and business software, has said it aims to spend up to $5 billion on a second headquarters campus, and staff it with up to 50,000 employees over the course of more than a decade.
The data underlying the King County and Snohomish County bid were compiled by public and private economic development agencies, and stitched together by Challenge Seattle, a private group of corporate civic boosters funded by the Seattle area’s major companies and housed at the Seattle offices of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The entity is led by former Gov. Chris Gregoire, who, with the aid of two part-time staffers, as well as BCG employees, laid out a narrative for the joint proposal.
“Other regions may speculate that they share your values and can work with you to build a home base for your thriving company, but our existing, successful partnership and the amazing place we’ve cultivated together speaks for itself,” the proposal says.
The bid offers Amazon no new state tax credits or economic development incentives, instead proposing the menu of existing corporate subsidies.
The pitch does make an economic argument, saying that Washington, a state with no personal or corporate income tax, would be a cheaper place to expand than some widely cited HQ2 candidates.
State Commerce Department estimates show that an HQ2 expansion, in 2023, would mean $904 million in additional annual taxes if Amazon set up shop in Toronto, $583 million in Chicago and $326 million in Denver.
In Seattle, that expansion would yield an estimated $92 million in additional taxes that year. Austin, Washington data show, would be cheaper, at $67 million.
Seattle’s bid also leans on poetry, citing the words of T.S. Eliot, from Little Gidding.
“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”