Local leaders had visions of a giant Amazon headquarters in Port Covington, but those ended on Thursday.
When the ecommerce giant announced the 20 cities that made its list of finalists for a second headquarters, Baltimore wasn’t among them.
It brought an end to an effort that rallied many officials together. Along with city officials and Sagamore Development, a plan to colocate HQ2 with Under Armour’s proposed new headquarters in the South Baltimore area owned by Kevin Plank was backed by Gov. Larry Hogan. University and business leaders also joined in to tout the city’s advantages.
From Maryland, Amazon chose only Montgomery County for the shortlist. It’s one of three D.C.–area locales to get a look, along with the District itself and Northern Virginia. Now, the state will focus their attention – and $5 billion in incentives that Hogan’s office said was proposed – on MoCo. Other East Coast cities including Boston, Philly, New York and Newark, N.J., are also on the shortlist.
In all, 238 cities submitted proposals to Amazon for the headquarters, which the company says will be coequal to its Seattle location and bring 50,000 jobs.
“I guess I’m probably like 218 city [mayors] probably holding very similar press conferences right now, thinking, ‘Wow, why weren’t we selected?'” Mayor Catherine Pugh said on Thursday morning at City Hall. “But let me just say that, if you don’t get in the game, you don’t get selected. We were glad that so many in our business community came together to pull together what we considered to be a magnificent proposal.”
Baltimore County leaders also backed the bid instead of submitting one of their own. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who is running for the Democratic nomination for governor, immediately criticized Hogan for his 2015 decision to cancel the Red Line commuter rail that would’ve run East-West through the city as a “critical nail in the coffin.” Transportation access was one of the considerations in Amazon’s RFP.
While Baltimore seemed a perfect fit based on @Amazon’s criteria, it's clear that a lack of public transportation, following Larry Hogan’s decision to kill the Red Line, was a critical nail in the coffin. https://t.co/RBby6F93vO
— Kevin Kamenetz (@kevinkamenetz) January 18, 2018
Amazon didn’t provide a reason for why it chose certain cities over others, and Pugh lamented that “we may never know” the reason. Though officials declined public records requests to allow the public to see the proposal, the mayor reiterated that leaders backing the proposal saw the city’s ability to offer development-ready space in Port Covington that could easily fit Amazon’s 8 million sq. ft. requirement as a potential leg up. With the decision, plans for the portion of the 235-acre development that do not involve the plans for an Under Armour campus and Sagamore-run ventures weren’t immediately clear.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” Marc Weller the lead developer behind Port Covington, said in a statement. “Baltimore is an amazing city, with second-to-none talent, that sits at the epicenter of innovation, education and commerce. The collective work of the city, State, community and business leaders on the Amazon HQ2 bid will undoubtedly help our city attract future businesses and commercial capital, and the Port Covington Development Team never slows in our efforts to bring new investment to Baltimore. We’re optimistic and keeping our eye on building for the future.”
Port Covington wasn’t the only Baltimore site proposed. The Old Goucher Community Association also put in a proposal to bring the headquarters to the geographic center of the city. In a statement, the association’s leaders said they “remain confident in the value proposition that Center City offers to any business,” adding that it’s “still Day One in Old Goucher and its environs.”
Extending that spirit to the whole city, there’s one way to potentially see the decision as a chance to harness the energy put into landing Amazon to help those already here. It’s an idea that was voiced by entrepreneurs before the bid was even in.
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