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KC area’s secret bid for Amazon HQ2 offers a few sites. Where could it go?

Amazon’s first deadline for cities to submit proposals for HQ2 came and went on Oct. 19. The Kansas City area submitted an expansive offer to the company for its second headquarters building.
Amazon’s first deadline for cities to submit proposals for HQ2 came and went on Oct. 19. The Kansas City area submitted an expansive offer to the company for its second headquarters building. AP

By most accounts, the Kansas City Area Development Council made Kansas City look welcoming and promising with an expansive proposal Thursday to attract Amazon’s second headquarters campus.

Aside from a lengthy list of prepared statements from local leaders, the KCADC kept details of the proposal secret, although some talk about possible sites included in the bid did surface.

The proposal landed in Amazon’s hands as the company now weighs Kansas City with dozens of other cities that hope to win Amazon HQ2’s 50,000 jobs and $5 billion investment. The company’s decision is expected next year.

The KCADC said the project is competitive, which requires keeping the details closely held. Those connected to the Amazon effort have signed nondisclosure agreements that forbid them from speaking publicly.

Still, some details started to surface on Thursday. In keeping with the bi-state nature of Kansas City’s proposal, a number of sites on both sides of the state line were offered up.

Independence Mayor Eileen Weir confirmed that a 100-acre undeveloped tract along the north side of Interstate 70 and Little Blue Parkway was included in the KCADC proposal.

“It really landed on that site because of the transportation available, being near the highway,” Weir said. “There was rail access.”

Kansas City, Kan., was said to have attractive sites in the proposal, both on the western and central areas of the city.

Unified Government of Wyandotte County/KCK declined to identify the precise properties.

“We did submit sites, multiple sites in KCK where we would to have it,” Holland said. “It would be a big win for the metro area.”

Other areas said to be in the running include the Riverfront and downtown Kansas City, Olathe, Platte and Clay counties and Lee’s Summit.

Weir said she understood that Amazon was likely keen on settling on one location, wherever the company decides to go, rather than splitting HQ2 among several locations within one metro.

Missouri, however, decided to take its chances with a bid of its own that would encourage Amazon to contemplate locating in both Kansas City and St. Louis.

“What we are challenging Amazon to consider is, imagine the power if you can combine both cities into one plan for developing HQ2,” said Drew Erdmann, chief operating officer in Gov. Eric Greitens’ office, in an interview with The Star.

“And we believe this is a bold transformative vision for the state and for the region and suits the ambitions of Amazon.”

The result, Erdmann believes, in a “Innovation Corridor” along Interstate 70 that would include Columbia and the University of Missouri in between both cities.

Erdmann also suggested both cities might be linked up some day by a Hyperloop connection — a vacuum train that transports passengers at ultra-high speeds — that could give Missouri’s idea additional appeal.

Missouri’s proposal was separate from Kansas City’s and St. Louis’ offers.

No details emerged about what type of incentives local and state lawmakers might offer Amazon. Whatever combination is under consideration, the price tag figures to be substantial.

New Jersey said earlier this week that it was ready to offer upwards of $7 billion in incentives to Amazon. Maryland may be in the same company; a headline in the Baltimore Sun said Maryland’s incentive packages could be “measured in the billions of dollars.”

Both Kansas and Missouri have pursued extraordinary incentive packages aimed at landing businesses in the past, and they sounded on Thursday like they were prepared to do it again for Amazon.

“We have been preparing for an opportunity like Amazon’s HQ2 for a generation,” Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer said in a written statement.

“We want to create with Amazon the most prosperous and livable region in North America, right here in the heart of it. 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.”

Amazon has kept quiet about its next steps. It’s not sure yet whether it will make a short list of cities it likes, as is often the case with corporate location decisions, and follow up with site visits.

But it’s fair to say it will have plenty of choices to sort through. Amazon said any city hoping to get HQ2 had to start with at least 1 million people. That leaves roughly 50 metro areas that qualify on that basis alone.

Many cities that size or higher expressed interest in HQ2, few didn’t. Little Rock, Ark., took out a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post, which Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns, saying it was not interested in soliciting HQ2.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that he felt no need to offer Amazon a penny of incentives.

Mayor of Kansas City, Sly James, is hoping to grab the attention of Amazon by leaving product reviews. The hope is that the reviews will attract Amazon to build the company's second headquarters in Kansas City.

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