Amazon’s search for a home to put a second headquarters could end in Boston, Chicago, Austin or Bothell.
There’s a move afoot to convince the online retail giant to establish its HQ2 somewhere in Snohomish County.
“Why would we not? Amazon invited people to tell their community story and we have a great story to tell,” said Patrick Pierce, CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County. “If Amazon wants to come here and grow jobs, we welcome them with open arms.”
State Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, a former senior manager with Amazon, started talking up the idea of anchoring it in Bothell or Everett not long after Amazon announced its intentions Sept. 7.
“Our chances should be as good as any other city or county,” he said. “We have elected leaders in the county and the cities that are very receptive and willing to work with the company to create a favorable environment for economic development in ways the city of Seattle is not.”
Publicly, and privately, political and business leaders involved in these conversations said there’s no downside. Amazon is growing and Snohomish County wants to be on its radar if the corporation seeks to move a division out of Seattle.
“We might be an underdog but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try,” Palumbo said. “If it doesn’t work out for 50,000 workers and HQ2, it doesn’t mean we won’t entice them to bring a couple thousand jobs to Snohomish County.”
Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle comprise 33 buildings and house in the neighborhood of 50,000 workers. Its presence has been a catalyst for development in downtown and the South Lake Union area.
Founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said last week that HQ2 will be “a full equal” to its home base in Seattle.
He invited North American cities, counties, states and provinces to make a pitch. It’s ignited a competition in this nation and across the border into Canada for a potentially humongous economic prize. Over the next 15 years, Amazon anticipates populating the second headquarters with up to 50,000 full-time employees earning more than $100,000 a year on average.
The company has a few requirements that seem to exceed what Snohomish County and its cities could deliver.
Amazon wants to be within 30 miles of a metropolitan area with more than a million people, 45 minutes of an international airport, not more than two miles from major highways and arterial, and direct access to mass transit. A highly educated labor pool is critical and a strong university system is required.
It wants to start with a site of at least 500,000 square feet and be able to expand to as much as 8 million square feet by 2027, making it roughly the size of the Seattle campus. And a significant factor will be financial incentives that offset costs of construction and operation.
Requests for proposals are due Oct. 19. Economic Alliance Snohomish County will take the lead in putting one together for the county, Pierce said.
Snohomish County Council Chairman Terry Ryan said that it’s smart to try to get Amazon’s attention.
“We’d like to have some portion of Amazon up here in Snohomish County,” Ryan said. “We have plenty of land and trained people. It would be a natural extension of Amazon’s business to come up here to Snohomish County. We’re business friendly.”
Washington State University in Everett, the University of Washington Bothell, and the community colleges can provide a pipeline of skilled workers, Pierce and Palumbo said. There’s extensive public transit now and light rail will be operating as Amazon ramps up hiring in a decade.
Thousands of high-tech workers, including many from Amazon, already make their home in Bothell and cities in south Snohomish County, Palumbo said. Accommodating an infusion of new workers in the next 15 years could be handled through proper comprehensive planning, he said.
As far as available land, Pierce said they are going through the inventory. There could be potential properties in the North Creek area of Bothell as well as Everett and even as far as Smokey Point.
In Everett, cross waterfront properties off the list as the city wants to keep it available for industrial and maritime uses. There may be viable space in the southwest industrial center, said Bob Bolerjack, governmental affairs director.
Meanwhile, as of Monday, Gov. Jay Inslee had not had face-to-face talks with any Amazon executives about its planned expansion.
And a spokeswoman for the governor said it has not been decided if the state will submit its own RFP.
But, it would be “actively involved in working with the company and cities/regions to see what could be done to increase the chances that HQ2 could be located in Washington,” said Tara Lee, deputy communications director for the governor. “Our office is looking into what those opportunities might be and how the state could help.”
Noah Haglund contributed to this report.
Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @dospueblos.