HARTFORD, CT — There are 17 Connecticut communities vying to be chosen as the site the Department of Economic and Community Development will submit to Amazon in its search for its second corporate headquarters.
Amazon already has 4,200 employees in Connecticut at distribution centers in Windsor and Wallingford, and state officials are hoping to add 50,000 more.
Connecticut is looking to put its best foot forward, which is why the proposal will be submitted by the state rather than the individual municipalities.
DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith said last week that there’s nothing stopping a town from submitting a proposal directly to Amazon, however, she warned that the state won’t back it with incentives.
“We’re not going to support something unless we think it could win,” Smith said.
With 50,000 jobs paying $100,000 a year and a $5 billion headquarters on the line, it’s hard to argue.
Hartford, which is struggling to avoid bankruptcy, is hoping the state picks its bid to present to Amazon on Oct. 19.
“Amazon is looking at metro areas of one million people or more, and the truth is that we are a metro area of about a million people. We have an incredible concentration of assets, whether it’s educational institutions, cultural institutions, human capital, or the physical beauty of our communities,” Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said. “If we start thinking of our region, marketing our region, and investing in a vibrant urban core, we can compete.”
He said landing Amazon anywhere in Connecticut “would be a huge boost to the entire state,” but it has to remember it will be competing against cities that are as large as the entire state.
He said they can’t be “narrow-minded or parochial.”
To that end several towns are banding together as a region in their pitch.
Bridgeport, Fairfield, New Haven, and Stamford teamed up to submit a joint proposal for the region.
Laurence Grotheer, a spokesman for the city of New Haven, said the Elm City would be preparing a bid that’s “very attractive and competitive,” and carries the weight of a regional approach.
“The region offers options of up to 15 million square feet of shovel-ready space; most of New Haven’s four million square feet is within walking distance of Union Station, with ready rail service to Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and all points in between,” Grotheer said.
He said it provides access to international airports through New York and a highly skilled and well-educated workforce, with a concentration of excellent post-secondary schools to refill the talent pipeline.
“Amazon is very clear about a few things,” Smith said. “They want to be in metropolitan area with at least one million people. They also want to have access within 45 minutes to an international airport, and they need 8 million square feet of space.”
In addition to asking for an incentive package, Amazon is looking for access to human capital — which is a terms for the skills, knowledge, and experience possessed by an individual or population — and is requesting information about quality of life for its employees.
The RFP asks for everything from traffic congestion rankings to information about “daily living, recreational opportunities, diversity of housing options, availability of housing near potential sites for HQ2, and pricing, among other information. Please also include relevant crime data and cost of living data.”
The city of New Britain and the town of Enfield have also submitted proposals, but the DECD has declined to share the names of all 17 communities that decided to participate in the process.
“Our communities have to work together,” Smith said, adding that Amazon is a “creative company” and she dared local leaders to think outside the box when submitting their proposals.
The proposals are due to Amazon by Oct. 19.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is hoping that the current budget stalemate doesn’t impact the selection process.
“When you attack our ability to compete as a state then you’re going to lose jobs,” Malloy said as a criticism of the Republican budget proposal. “What is our message to Amazon? … Should we lead with ‘we’re going to cut hundreds of millions of dollars out of our public higher educational system’?”
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said their budget’s cut to the University of Connecticut and the Connecticut State University System was necessary in order to help fund social services.
Malloy is expected to veto the Republican budget and the two sides will be back at the negotiating table next week.