Missouri’s major cities expected to compete for Amazon headquarters project

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Cities across the nation are all gearing up in an attempt to be chosen as the next site for a second Amazon headquarters, and Missouri’s major cities are looking to make strong bids in the competition.

The e-commerce company announced on Thursday that it would be opening up requests for proposals for its $5 billion construction project, which is estimated to bring up to 50,000 jobs to whichever city is selected. The company has also promised $38 billion in economic growth potential for the second headquarters, which has been named “HQ2.”

The new location is expected to be a fully equivalent facility to that of the headquarters located in Seattle, which is a 33-building campus on 8.1 million square feet of space, housing more than 40,000 employees. The company’s next project is looking for a half-million square foot of space.

The average compensation for each new full-time employee is expected to exceed $100,000.

“We are on a mission to make Missouri a best-in-class state to do business. We’ve taken bold action, and we’re getting results. Now, Missouri can compete with any state in the nation to win quality jobs for Missouri families, and we compete for every job. This is an exciting opportunity, and we’re going to fight to win,” Governor Eric Greitens said.

The Missouri Department of Economic Development will work with any community across the state that meets the scope of the proposal. According to a press release issued by the DED, the state and its partners are reviewing the proposal from Amazon and are preparing a response.

St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson and Kansas City Mayor Sly James both stated that they intend to put together competitive bids for the project, but the cities will be competing against several other major cities, including Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Memphis, Pittsburgh, and Toronto.

St. Louis is already among the regions where Amazon is expanding its operations, as it recently announced plans to open a 2-warehouse facility in Hazelwood, employing 350 part-time workers.

“Every sizable city is trying to make a run at this. Amazon is obviously a huge, huge employer, and the growth and scale that they bring is like nothing else that exists in the country right now,” Jeff Mazur, the executive director of LaunchCode, said. “Both Kansas City and St. Louis want to take a swing at this thing, and it’s not surprising. I think both cities have a lot to recommend them in terms of the tech scene in both cities and makes sense for both regions to take a crack at it.

Amazon has requested cities to submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) from the regions, looking for metropolitan areas with populations of more than one million people, as well as access to mass transit, an international airport, and the ability to help attract top technical talent. Of course, the subsidies offered and the tax breaks that local governments can pull out for the company could also play a role in which city is selected.

Every state and city are going to be able to put a lot of money on the table, in terms of incentives and tax breaks,” Mazur said.

Mazur says that the availability of tech talent in both Kansas City and St. Louis has seen major steps to increase the availability of that talent.

“And that’s why, from our perspective, the talent recruitment and workforce development are going to be particularly huge pieces here. One of the areas with a vast difference is the availability of talent, and what Amazon will require to thrive in the market will be highly contingent on their ability to find thousands of people with the technical skill sets needed.”

He says that a key component will be the ability to scale the number of graduates with the proper skills up to fit the need of the company as it continues to grow. And the company itself has continued expanding at a rapid rate, building more warehouses across the U.S to pack and ship packages. It also recently acquired organic grocer Whole Foods and its more than 400 stores for $14 billion.

“All of this is a way of saying that to be successful in this bid is to demonstrate that you have truly innovative, cutting edge and scalable and accelerated ways of creating new software developers quickly,” Mazur said. “That’s the only way this is going to work.”

Several elected officials spoke in support of seeking the bid, but enthusiasm was shared by more, including the St. Louis Cardinals.

Cities have until Oct. 19 to apply. The final decision is expected in 2018.

Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.