Philly will enter national bid process to house Amazon's new HQ - Technical.ly Philly

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Sep. 7, 2017 12:51 pm

Philly will enter national bid process to house Amazon’s new HQ

Mayors of several cities have also raised their hands for HQ2. But not everyone is happy about Amazon's brazen play for public subsidies.

Amazon's HQ in Seattle.

(Courtesy photo)

Amazon is looking for a city to set up a massive new $5-billion, 50,000-employee campus, and Philly’s joining the race.

“Philadelphia will be submitting a proposal and given their preference for a city with over 1,000,000 people, Philadelphia would provide them with a perfectly located East Coast hub where they have access to a rapidly growing millennial talent pool,” the city’s Department of Commerce said in a statement Thursday. “We’re also much more affordable than other nearby East Coast cities with similar population sizes.”

Philly Mayor Jim Kenney whipped out the dad jokes on Twitter to confirm that Philly will be entering the competitive process:

First Round Capital’s Josh Kopelman, who had earlier offered Kenney his help in the effort, doubled down with a puntastic response:

Guys.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s team is also on the case.

“We are aware of the proposal from Amazon and are exploring how we can showcase Pennsylvania’s world class cities as potential homes for Amazon’s growth,” said spokesman J.J. Abbott. “Some of our economic development team had a call already this morning when the news came out.”

Kenney and Wolf join a chorus of local leaders publicly pulling for Amazon to drop down in their cities. So far, the mayors of Tulsa, Memphis and St. Louis have explicitly said their towns would submit a proposal.

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The report out of Chicago is that Mayor Rahm Emanuel had already been in talks with CEO Jeff Bezos about setting up HQ2 in Chicago. If you’re familiar with Amazon’s negotiation tactics, this report may be truly relevant.

As the Seattle ecommerce giant scouts out possible towns, it already has a shopping list of what it wants. Here are some of the condition cities should meet, per the official Request for Proposal:

  • Metropolitan areas with more than one million people
  • A stable and business-friendly environment
  • Urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent
  • Communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options

The site will be announced in 2018 after a review of all submissions, in a process that’s been dubbed on social media “Amazon Idol.”

Philly Twitter was aflutter with the news with a wide range of reactions.

There’s the carefully optimistic Mikey Ilagan:

Of  course the perennially excited Waterfront Lab account said, Come to Camden:

PACT’s Danielle Pinto gave a shout to the existing local tech community:

WHYY transportation reporter Jim Saksa said no way:

Though most cities are super excited about the possibility of a massive corporate site among them, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (with offices in Minneapolis, Portland and D.C.) sounded every siren in a fiery press release about the company’s HQ site search.

“Amazon’s announcement that it’s opening a search for a second North American headquarters is only the latest play in Amazon’s long-time strategy of financing its growth through public subsidies,” said Stacy Mitchell, the Institute’s co-director. “In response to Amazon’s HQ2 RFP, public officials would do well to invest in smart economic development for their communities instead of engaging in Amazon’s arms race.”

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Roberto Torres

Roberto Torres became Technical.ly Lead Philly Reporter in May 2016. Prior, he was a freelance contributor to Technical.ly and Al Dia News. The native Venezuelan moved to Philadelphia in 2015 after reporting on research at his alma mater, the University of Zulia. Whenever he's not fencing deadlines, he can be found standing in line at Overbrook Pizza in West Philly, running Netflix/Hulu marathons with his wife or reading news from Venezuela.

  • If only there was already a plan for a major tower in a tax friendly location next to incredible transit options as well as near some of the best colleges in America… like Schykill Yards! That Amazon arrow would look really nice on the large sky skraper: https://philly.curbed.com/2016/3/2/11147980/drexel-unveils-schuylkill-yards-renderings

    I know people are pushing for the Navy Yard, but come on people, nobody wants to trek to land of stadiums, oil refineries, and shipyards to get to work. 30th Street makes this commutable from a very wide area, and most people they want to attract probably live in the city or on one of the many train lines.

    • Jason Bannon

      Ahem.

      • you know you wish you didn’t have to go all the way down to hinterlands. It’s a drag… outside of the awesome eagle viewing (and occasional Eagles viewings) that can often be enjoyed nearby.

  • Nadia Adam

    Hope we can make this happen! I’ve always felt we needed the presence of the “Big Four” and startups here to really propel(as a former New Yorker, I can tell you how much that has helped my old city. I’m amazed now that even my old borough the Bronx has a tech presence). However, I must say….what are we offering Amazon that they can’t get elsewhere? The wage tax, the sad state of schools, infrastructure, decline in our mass transit are a few challenges. We have to be honest here if we want to win them over.

  • citywide

    how can Philly make this happen? Easy, find out what they want then double it. They want 10 years tax free and $100M from the State, give them 20 years and $200M. If Amazon wants to feed off the public teat, and uses corporate welfare as a standard business model, do we really want them? Does the richest man in the world really need that much help $$$ in building some office buildings? But 50K employees would be good———–

    • Murray Roth

      Give amazon a great offer like this and it will bring thousands of jobs to Philly. More tech people will stay or move here. More companies will move here to support Amazon. More people will move into the city or univ. city. More will pay the wage tax and fund the schools. This would be a coup for Philly and maybe we can cancel the soda tax and even lower the wage tax.

  • S Byrne

    We offer a major container port under serious expansion, the largest bi-modal public transportation system in the country, AMTRAK, amazing Universities, an innovation economy, new urbanism, Pennovation, the Science Center, a highly educated population, the only World Heritage city in the country and a thriving Tech world. They could also be hip by locating in Schuylkill yards and nearby Mantua to join Brandywine and Drexel University’s efforts to build our Impact Economy. Then there is location, location,location. Maybe I’m biased!?

    • Nadia Adam

      Excellent points =)
      It is absolutely necessary to offer them tax incentives. DO NOT give them a reason to jump to the burbs……

  • 2username2

    This is a no brainer and Schuylkill Yards is the obvious location. Someone is going to give them the incentives, it may as well be Philadelphia. Think of the philanthropy too…money for orchestras, museums, etc. The Amazon Mummers parade? Campbells and Sunoco money is gone. Pew, Comcast, Wawa and Sugarhouse shouldn’t be the only money left in town. Put together an amazing proposal and make it happen.

  • DaveVoyles

    Two (2) issues:
    1. City wage tax + income tax
    2. Lack of tech talent.

    #1 can be negotiated, but good luck with #2.

    On the plus side, Philly is very affordable when compared to neighboring cities.

    • Alex Blynn

      I see many issues, the biggest certainly being a lack of local talent. Plus, there are only three Fortune 500 companies based in the city of Philadelphia, none of which Amazon would count as reputable/good neighbors. Yes, the city is inexpensive when compared with cities like New York, but Amazon will certainly look at what it will lose over the long term when setting up shop. Remember, Comcast is a pretty gross company — regularly called out for its terrible customer service and business practices — and it only set up shop in Philly because the city promised them massive tax breaks (which they still have yet to pay even those discounted taxes)… again, that’s what gross companies would do. I’m a Philly native and I hope for my hometown’s sake that Amazon somehow chooses Philly as a new home base, but I genuinely doubt it.

      • Murray Roth

        If amazon moves here, more top companies will follow. Giving tax breaks to Amazon will be OK because they are bringing good paying jobs for people who will pay their taxes. And all of the companies that follow amazon to Philly will bring more jobs, more people paying taxes.

    • M. Kravat

      Philly could easily have enough tech talent for Amazon’s needs. We have quite a number of colleges in the area and all of their STEM graduates leave the area for more lucrative positions in, you guessed it, Silicon Valley and Seattle. We have plenty of tech talent. We just don’t keep it in Philly.

  • Edward

    Amazon won’t even consider Philadelphia with it’s growing homicide and other violent crime rate. While I am sure that the residents want to believe that their city is the best, the rest of the country shudders when Philadelphia is mentioned and would not even consider visiting the city for fear they would be killed in front of their daughter for a few dollars and an SUV! Mayor Kenney and DA Hodge need to do a lot more work cleaning up the crime before dreaming about a major corporation moving there.

    • Murray Roth

      crime stats are down. Bad things happen in all cities unfortunately. It is still cheaper in Philly than NY, DC, LA CHICAGO, MIAMI.

      • dword

        Plus all those Cities mentioned probably have higher crime rates than Philly

  • I’m trying to imagine the scale of the campus for their HQ. Think MASSIVE, possibly as big or bigger than the infinite Apple HQ. Think megaplex with retail, housing, and transportation. Space and connectivity will be key attractions…. space for a large scale complex, and connectivity to transport systems, power, Net backbone, housing, retail, and outdoor spaces. This is a great opportunity for the Philly area to grow. Maybe they’ll fix the aging road and rail systems in the process. #Hyperloop

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