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Will Louisville Join The Race To Land Amazon’s HQ2?

Robert Scoble/Creative Commons

Amazon has unveiled plans to build a new headquarters in North America.

The company said Thursday that it plans toinvest $5 billion and employ up to 50,000 people at the new site in full-time, "high-paying" positions, according to Amazon's request for proposal.

Amazon is headquartered in Seattle. The company is encouraging cities and metro areas to submit proposals to host the second headquarters site. Some cities, including Chicago and Los Angeles, have already announced their plans to lure the mega-company.

But it's unclear if Louisville will join the race.

Chris Poynter, the spokesman for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, said city officials "pursue all opportunities," but did not specifically confirm if they'll seek the Amazon investment.

Jessica Wethington, a spokeswoman for Louisville Forward, also did not confirm that city officials will submit a proposal before the October 19 deadline.

"We can't say anything about the project," she said in an emailed statement.

But she went on to tout the city's "long history of excellence in logistics, eCommerce, advanced manufacturing and business services."

"And, of course, we have BOURBON!" she wrote. "Who wouldn't want to live and work here?"

But Allison Brotzge-Elder, a spokeswoman for Greater Louisville Inc. — the Metro Chamber of Commerce — said such an investment is "a huge opportunity" and "we are going to work as hard as we can" to get Amazon to commit to the Louisville area.

Brotzge-Elder said the competition to attract Amazon will be stiff, but Louisville should be a strong contender. She said Louisville has a good geographic location, affordable real estate and an able and growing workforce.

In Louisville, UPS is the prime logistical player and Amazon is one of the company's customers. UPS is also the city's largest employer, providing more than 22,000 jobs, according to the city's office of management and budget.

Earlier this year, concerns surfaced when Amazon announcedit would establish a new $1.5 billion Prime Air hub in Northern Kentucky.
But UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot toldThe Courier-Journal the shipping company was not concerned the Amazon hub would affect UPS jobs or operations in Louisville.

"Louisville and Northern Kentucky are two different labor pools," he said.

Amazon HQ2

Amazon already has a massive fulfillment center in Jeffersonville, Indiana, not far from Louisville. And the company is expanding at a dizzying pace.

Amazon earlier this year acquired the grocery-chain Whole Foods and has been hiring thousands of workers at sites across the country, according to reports from The New York Times.

For its second headquarters, Amazon has a preference for a metro area with a population of more than 1 million, a "stable and business-friendly environment," urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent, and communities that "think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options," according to the company's request for proposal.

The new headquarters campus will be called "HQ2," according to the company's statement. It'll need to be within 30 miles of a population center, within 45 minutes of an international airport and no more than a few miles from a major highway.

On-site access to mass transit — like rail, subway or bus — is also preferred, according to the proposal.

The company seeks to construct a building with some 8 million total square feet, per the document.

"Ensuring optimal fiber connectivity is paramount at our HQ2 location," the company says.

Amazon is also looking for an area with "the presence and support of a diverse population, excellent institutions of higher education, local government structure and elected officials eager and willing to work with the company."

In Seattle, the company employs more than 40,000 people who work in 33 buildings that total 8.1 million square feet, according to the company's website.

Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive, said the company expects HQ2 to be "a full equal to our Seattle headquarters."

"Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs," he said in a statement. "We’re excited to find a second home.”

The company will announce the final site selection in 2018.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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