UPDATE: Minnesota to fight for second Amazon headquarters and its 50,000 jobs
ST. PAUL — When retail behemoth Amazon announced plans to expand into a second North American headquarters Thursday, Sept. 7, states across the country began quickly lining up for the chance.
Minnesota was among those excitedly jumping into the queue for the $5 billion project.
“With as many as 50,000 new jobs possible for Minnesota workers and families, I have directed Commissioner Shawntera Hardy and the Department of Employment and Economic Development to work with city, regional, and state partners on a proposal to bring Amazon’s new headquarters to Minnesota,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement Thursday.
Amazon made the possibility awfully enticing. The project would house as complete a headquarters as its Seattle base, which it claims brought 53,000 jobs to the city as well as a nearly $26 billion payroll. Amazon is soliciting bids through Oct. 19.
Minnesota checks many of the boxes Amazon says it is looking for. It clearly has “metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people” and “urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent,” as proven by the state’s 17 Fortune 500 companies already making Minnesota home. People debate whether Minnesota has Amazon’s other two must-haves: “a stable and business-friendly environment” and “communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options.”
In a statement, Hardy, who leads the state agency charged with economic development, indicated deals could be done to woo Amazon.
“Time and again, Minnesota has proven that when businesses start, relocate, or grow in our state, they are afforded the tools and resources to make them successful. We are committed to continuing that legacy,” she said.
Dayton has not been averse to using public incentives, such as those experts say Amazon would want, to lure economic expansion.
In 2013, Minnesota approved $585 million in public assistance, from both state and local sources, to support Mayo Clinic’s planned $5.5 billion expansion in Rochester. That same year, Minnesota wooed digital photo company Shutterfly to land a facility in Shakopee, by offering millions in tax breaks, forgivable loans and other assistance.
Last month, as Wisconsin was finalizing a $3 billion incentive package for technology maker Foxconn to build a plant, Dayton was invited to critique the deal during a Minnesota Public Radio interview. He declined to bash the incentives.
“You have to look at what are the financial returns to the state,” said Dayton, who was commissioner of the state’s economic development agency 40 years ago. “What’s the public benefit versus the public cost?”
Depending on how Amazon, which recently bought Whole Foods Market, makes its choice, the company could quickly eliminate many possible candidates. The company says it wants to land in a metropolitan area that has more than 1 million people — and there are fewer than 60 of those in the United States. The Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington region has about 3.5 million residents, ranking just behind Seattle’s 3.8 million, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.
The bidding was opened to sites in North America, which means Amazon may also look at new homes in Mexico or Canada. Officials in the Canadian city of Toronto, Colorado, Pittsburgh, Hartford, Nashville, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and elsewhere said Thursday that they planned to bid. CNBC said Chicago’s mayor had recent talks with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
The company said it wants its new headquarters to be within 30 miles of a city, 45 miles from an airport and near highways and mass transit.
The new site would have to be big, the company said in its specifications. It should have existing buildings of at least 500,000 square feet and a nearby “greenfield site of approximately 100 acres certified or pad ready, with utility infrastructure in place.”
The company also wants a “cultural community fit,” it said, including a stable business environment.
“We encourage testimonials from other large companies,” it said in its solicitation.
Greater MSP, a Minneapolis and St. Paul economic development booster, said it is already working with the state to provide a “unified response” to the Amazon opportunity.
“This is a great opportunity for the region, and we are looking forward to understanding it further and how our region can compete,” Greater MSP Vice President Mike Brown said.
Amazon says it will spend between $300 million and $600 million initially to build out the site but could spend a lot more over time.
“At full build-out, the campus or park may exceed 8 million square feet and over $5 billion in total capital investment,” it told potential bidders.
Dayton said Minnesota would make a good home for Amazon.
“With two current facilities in Minnesota, including a recent expansion in Shakopee, Amazon has already seen the benefits of Minnesota’s well-educated and world-class workforce, who live and work in strong communities with a high quality of life,” he said Thursday. “Tomorrow, I will meet with Commissioner Hardy to discuss how Minnesota can leverage the assets that have made us one of the best states for business in CNBC’s annual rankings, in order to prepare a compelling proposal to add this new headquarters to Amazon’s already strong presence in Minnesota’s diverse and growing economy.”
In documentation of its request for cities to bid for the project, Amazon said: “We want to find a city that is excited to work with us and where our customers, employees, and the community can all benefit.”
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said Minnesota could provide that.
“In the city of St. Paul alone, we have numerous opportunities for a company like Amazon to build a campus that meets its needs. I look forward to engaging with partners throughout the region to compete for the 50,000 jobs Amazon will create with its new headquarters,” said Coleman, a Democrat running for governor.
Even before Dayton officially said the state would work to lure Amazon, Minneapolis state Rep. Paul Thissen, another Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said it should.
“Minnesota is extremely well-positioned to compete for the new Amazon headquarters and thousands of accompanying jobs,” Thissen said. “And we have excellent sites for potential development including the St. Paul Ford plant property or the Arden Hills armory site.”
Republican leaders agreed.
“We believe Minnesota is more than qualified to meet Amazon’s top four priorities,” Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, and Senate economic growth chair Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, said in a letter to Hardy. “We stand ready to help — let’s bring this great company to Minnesota.”
Amazon said in its request for proposals that it would make a decision next year.