For any city or state, becoming the home of retail giant Amazon’s second North American headquarters would be a colossal get.
Amazon said it would invest more than $5 billion on construction and create as many as 50,000 jobs paying an average of $100,000 at the new headquarters. The company would build an initial 500,000 square feet to 1 million square feet of office space in 2019, with the possibility of expanding that to an up to 8 million-square-foot office development.
“In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community,” the company stated in a news release about its request for proposal.
An eligible site should be within 30 miles of a population center, 45 miles of an international airport and a couple of miles of a major highway or interstate. The site also should have access to mass transit. Other requirements for eligible cities include: fiber connectivity, city and state incentives, a highly educated labor pool and a strong university system, high quality of life, a stable business climate, and daily direct flights to Seattle, New York, San Francisco/Bay Area and Washington, D.C.
While the requirements are at times specific, they also could fit a broad number of cities in the United States and Canada.
“We’re going to compete very hard for the Amazon headquarters, as well as probably 50 other cities around the country right now,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “We are in the process of putting that proposal together.”
He noted that the city did not check every box on the request for proposal — for example, Louisville doesn’t have direct flights to Seattle or the San Francisco area — but it’s about looking at the city’s future potential.
“We’ve got a lot of strengths, and we’ve got some gaps as well,” Fischer said, adding that the proposal will not only look at where Louisville is today but where it is headed. “Don’t think that today’s reality is a constraint.”
In its new marketing packet released Monday, Louisville Forward highlights the city’s growth: more than $11 billion in investment since 2014, more than 2,800 new businesses created since 2011 and 63,000 jobs added locally since 2011. The packet then draws attention to Louisville’s inclusivity, public park system and lower than average cost of living.
The marketing materials also highlight the city’s Code Louisville program, which has graduated 500 people so far.
“Louisville is a national leader in IT credentialing with our groundbreaking Code Louisville program training hundreds of new developers to fuel growing IT workforce needs and filling a new pipeline for future talent development,” the packet states.
Louisville Forward officials said that the city would work with state and regional partners on the proposal but declined to say exactly who was involved or provide additional details on what the city’s proposal would contain.
“We can’t say anything about the project specifically, but of course Louisville has a long history of excellence in logistics, eCommerce, advanced manufacturing, and business services. We are home to several Fortune 500 headquarters and many more regional HQ locations and globally connected corporations with major local operations. We are a Smart City with a strong record in innovation,” Louisville Forward said in an emailed statement.
It is unclear if the state will file a separate proposal from the one Louisville officials plan to submit, but Northern Kentucky could conceivably compile its own proposal with help from the state or work with people in nearby Cincinnati on a joint proposal. Amazon announced in January that it planned to invest $1.49 billion on a new air cargo hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
In an article on the New York Times’ blog The Upshot, Louisville made the list of more than 50 cities that met the simple criteria of having more than one million people in the metro area. It also made the cut of 25 cities with strong job growth, but after that, according to Upshot, Louisville falls out of the competition (along with 11 other cities).
Louisville didn’t even make the shortlist in a The Switch post on The Washington Post, which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. The writers said they’d identified 39 cities that had at least a million residents, had a highly educated population, were easy to fly to and had room for a development that could grow to as many as 8 million square feet. According to the post, Louisville didn’t make the initial cut because it lacked nonstop flights to San Francisco and Seattle.