Calling the effort to stoke Amazon’s interest in Kansas City for its second headquarters building “an unprecedented scale of regional cooperation,” the Kansas City Area Development Council Thursday handed in its bid for HQ2.
Kansas City joined dozens of other cities on Thursday in meeting Amazon’s deadline for initial responses to the company’s solicitation. Having maxed out its presence in its headquarters in Seattle, Amazon is on the hunt in the U.S. and Canada for a second headquarters that’s expected to bring with it 50,000 workers.
In what’s shaping up to be the largest corporate sweepstakes in recent history, Amazon took the unusual step of publicly calling for proposals — companies typically operate quietly and behind code names until a relocation decision has been reached.
The KCADC declined to divulge details of its proposal, citing the competitive nature of the bid among other cities. A few other states and cities released some details; New Jersey, for example announced it would offer up $7 billion in tax incentives to Amazon.
Amazon, if it chooses Kansas City, would become by far the region’s largest employer if it lives up to its promise of 50,000 jobs. Amazon projects it will build out 8 million square feet of new office space, which is about 3 million more square feet than Cerner is building at the former Bannister Mall site.
“The Kansas City region’s bid offers an uncommon approach and bold ideas that invite Amazon to imagine its future alongside ours and to take part in the many ways our region is leading the nation and world, from right here in the middle of the country,” Wendy Guillies, president and chief executive of the Kauffman Foundation, said in a written statement.
The KCADC, an investor-funded organization charged with attracting business interest in the Kansas City metropolitan area, took the lead on assembling the bi-state proposal. The KCADC did not reveal details of what it described as a two-inch thick written proposal.
“Our KC region has never seen an economic development opportunity of this magnitude that is so publicly visible, requiring the amount of information in the time frame that Amazon requested, and the level of community engagement and response that we needed for this opportunity,” KCADC president and chief executive Tim Cowden said in a statement.
It’s unknown what type of taxpayer incentives and other inducements the Kansas City region is ready to offer. Other cities have made overtures that suggest there could be a big price tag associated with landing Amazon. A headline in the Baltimore Sun said Maryland’s incentive package for Amazon could be “measured in the billions of dollars.”
Kansas and Missouri have pledged their support of a Kansas City bid.
“We have been preparing for an opportunity like Amazon’s HQ2 for a generation,” Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said in a statement. “The Kansas City region recognizes the importance of redefining the workforce of the future through top notch education. We are building Amazon’s next generation of pioneers to be both skilled and empowered and we’re excited to redefine the next generation of talent with Amazon.”
In keeping with the bi-state nature of KCADC’s bid, multiple sites on both sides of the state line were offered up to Amazon.
Speculation about potential sites includes sites along the Riverfront and downtown Kansas City, both in western and central Kansas City, Kan., Johnson County, and Platte and Clay counties.
Independence Mayor Eileen Wier confirmed that about 100 acres of undeveloped ground at Interstate 70 and Little Blue Parkway had been included in the Amazon bid.
“It really landed on that site because of the transportation available, being near the highway,” Weir said. “There was rail access.”
Amazon, among other things, prioritized proximity to mass transit in a city where it would put HQ2.
It also wanted an international airport nearby.
Mark Holland, mayor of the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City, Kan., said he believes the upcoming Nov. 7 vote on a single terminal at KCI could become an important factor in Amazon’s decision-making.
“That international airport is fundamental to the bid,” Holland said.
Holland said 51 metro areas have 1 million residents or more, which was a baseline requirement for Amazon’s bid. Given that fact, Holland said Kansas City could stand a reasonable chance at Amazon.
“I don't know why they wouldn't want to come to Kansas City,” Holland said.
Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland, whose city is mentioned among the possible sites for Amazon, echoed Holland’s sentiments.
“So many people have moved here from across the country to work in our many leading companies, but you would be hard pressed to find any who ever want to leave,” Copeland said in a statement.
Amazon’s decision is expected next year.