Cities on Amazon Shortlist Look to Next Steps

By FeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Just as Amazon.com Inc. was publicly announcing the 20 finalists for its second headquarters Thursday morning, Boston's economic-development chief, John Barros, heard his cellphone buzz.

"We would like to move Boston forward in the process so we can continue to learn more about your community, your talent, and potential real estate options," emailed Holly Sullivan, the Amazon executive running the selection process, at 9:04 a.m., shortly after the company released the shortlist. "Please email me back with available times for a call so we can discuss next steps."

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"We're excited to learn how this thing proceeds," Mr. Barros said in an interview.

City officials across the country were having similar mornings. Many mayors took to Twitter to welcome their city's selection.

In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms was asked at a press conference about concerns over affordable housing in the city if Amazon sets up its second headquarters there. Home prices have risen in recent years as more people and businesses have moved to the city.

Whether or not Amazon chooses Atlanta, Mayor Bottoms said, she plans to work to secure more affordable housing. "Our companies are worried about it," she said. "It's top of mind for so many people."

The city, she said, plans to work closely with state officials to make sure Atlanta is as attractive as it can be to Amazon and other companies, taking steps that could include an expansion of the area's mass transit system.

In Chicago, a coalition of city leaders and over a hundred business executives, including Oscar Munoz, chief executive of United Airlines and billionaire businesswoman Penny Pritzker, part of Chicago's committee to recruit Amazon. The committee also includes Senator Dick Durbin (D, Ill.), Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, the president of the Cook County Board and the four legislative leaders of the Illinois General Assembly in a rare show of political unity.

Indianapolis assembled a team of 300 people for its first-round bid, said Maureen Krauss, chief economic development officer at the Indy Chamber, which led the city's bid.

"When you looked at what the customer was looking for and you look at the assets we have in the region, we felt that there was a really strong connection there," Ms. Krauss said. "We are waiting for specifics from the customer and to see what we can deliver next."

In Miami, the mayor said in a statement, "There are many advantages to doing business in Miami, especially since we are one of only three cities that were selected that has no state income tax."

In New Jersey, state and local officials have offered a combined $7 billion in tax incentives to lure Amazon to Newark, a city of more than 280,000 in the state's northern Essex County. Mayor Ras Baraka said the city's selection reflected its prime location, untapped workforce and its revitalization after years of economic malaise.

"Newark is not the armpit of the East Coast, Newark is an incredible and beautiful place," Mr. Baraka said. "It is not a bus stop, it is a destination and people are beginning to see it as a destination."

And in neighboring New York, Alicia Glen, New York's deputy mayor for Housing and Economic Development, said she learned from Twitter on Thursday morning that the city had made the list. City officials have only had a couple of conversations with Amazon since they submitted their bid, she said.

"There is no inside track here," Ms. Glen said.

--Jon Kamp in Boston, Shibani Mahtani in Chicago, Arian Campo-Flores in Miami, Kate King in Newark, Joseph De Avila in New York contributed to this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 18, 2018 18:24 ET (23:24 GMT)

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