Amazon reached out to the governor's office after announcing it was looking for a city to host a second headquarters. Officials in Olympia were still working to understand Amazon’s needs and intentions, to gauge if the company is interested in growing elsewhere in Washington. But that option could face steep challenges.
OLYMPIA — State officials Friday were still working to understand Amazon’s needs and intentions and gauging if the company would be interested in another headquarters elsewhere in Washington.
After Amazon’s announcement Thursday morning that it intended to open a second headquarters somewhere in North America, company officials called David Postman, Gov. Jay Inslee’s chief of staff.
While no meeting is yet scheduled, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said the governor intends to sit down with Amazon representatives.
In past years, the governor’s staff has discussed with Amazon issues like workforce training and development, but not building capacity or space, according to the governor’s office.
Regardless, it would be difficult to find a spot in Washington to match Amazon’s ambitions for a second headquarters, according to Joseph Williams, director of tech industry economic development for the state Department of Commerce.
For starters, there’s the challenge of finding enough tech workers or other qualified professionals to fill it.
“We’d be dipping into the exact same talent pool we’re already dipping into,” said Williams, a former Microsoft executive and Inslee’s lead on tech issues.
Williams noted the impending expansion of the University of Washington’s computer-science program. But in the scheme of Amazon’s grand plans, “that’s just a drop in the bucket,” he said.
“My sense is, the fact that we have a 50,000-person campus here in South Lake Union is amazing,” he said.
Even if the workforce existed, finding enough office space elsewhere in the Puget Sound region or the state could be a tough task, according to Williams.
Besides, bigger companies sometimes just want to diversify, he said. And Amazon’s goal of a coequal headquarters appears to be a unique approach.
“I’m sure (Amazon chief Jeff) Bezos has a theory he’s working on,” Williams said. “I just don’t know what it is.”
That said, “We are hearing from cities in Washington who are thinking there may be an opportunity,” according to Smith.
Spokane would be “open to exploring” such an opportunity, according to a spokesman for the city.
“Attracting business of a type of Amazon’s stature is something that the city of Spokane is very interested in,” said spokesman Brian Coddington.
Coddington noted the number of universities in or near Spokane, and the fact that office space would be less expensive than in a city like Seattle.
But, he said, “I think we’re in the fact-finding stage at this point.”