The punchline writes itself: “Mega-corporations who chose Seattle as home for their headquarters also considered these cities …”
Like one of its own customers, Amazon is in the market for a new location for a second headquarters in North America, where it will make a more than $5 billion investment and bring in an influx of up to 50,000 employees, making an average of $100,000 a year.
Amazon is inviting cities, counties and states to make their bid for Amazon’s second HQ and is accepting proposals until Oct. 19, launching a sweepstakes that is attracting attention across the country.
And the thought, “Well, why not us?” has crossed the minds of a few in Snohomish County.
State Sen. Guy Palumbo, D-Maltby, himself a former senior manager for the online retail giant, told The Herald’s Jerry Cornfield that “our chances are as good as any other city or county.”
True, a handful of communities in Snohomish County — in particular Bothell, Everett and the Marysville-Arlington area — do fit a number of criteria that Amazon has laid out in its request for proposals.
Amazon is looking to be near a metro area of more than a million people (check); able to provide a pipeline to trained technical talent (check); be within 45 minutes of an international airport (please consult Alaska and United on their planned Paine Field flights); have direct access to mass transit (here’s a Swift bus schedule and an ORCA card, then get back to us on light rail); and have as much as 8 million square feet of space available over the next decade (sure, just give us a moment to pick up around here.)
Others have been handicapping the competition for AHQ2, but no one outside of the Evergreen State is betting on Snohomish County — and more significantly, Seattle — to be in the running.
The New York Times, using Amazon’s criteria thinks Denver has the best shot, though it also gives a nod to Portland, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Chicago, which was able to lure Boeing away from Seattle in 2001, is mentioned by others, except the Chicago Tribune, which put its money on Brooklyn, New York.
And, in fact, tech journal Gizmodo, specifically listed Everett and Seattle as two cities among eight “least likely to land Amazon’s new headquarters.”
Cheekily, Gizmodo lists two items in Everett’s plus column: “Palumbo has a dog named Scooby; the g**d*** Puget Sound.”
Seattle falls even lower on its list, mostly because it can’t provide any sweeter deal than Amazon already has there. “Absolutely anywhere else will cut Amazon a better deal,” wrote Gizmodo’s senior reporter.
It’s not likely as high on its list as tax incentives and other inducements, but Amazon would be wise to site its “full equal” headquarters somewhere outside of Western Washington. In the event of a major earthquake, tsunami or Cascade Range lahar, it’s not going to want both of its eggs in the same Puget Sound basket.
But that doesn’t mean that Snohomish County shouldn’t submit an RFP to Amazon. Economic Alliance Snohomish County is taking the lead on assembling a proposal.
That pitch should be made not because Snohomish County has a realistic shot at the grand prize, but because it will help county leaders and economic officials make similar proposals to other employers looking to locate here. Palumbo and others point out that if Snohomish County isn’t a good fit for AHQ2, Amazon might consider moving some of its Seattle jobs north.
We also ought to consider for a moment what absorbing 50,000 workers, even over the course of several years, would mean for the county.
One of the reasons that Amazon is looking for a second home is that its Seattle-based employees — because of their own arrival and good pay — have driven up the value of real estate in the Seattle area and are finding it difficult to find homes even they can afford. The median price for a home in Seattle earlier this summer was $730,000, up nearly 17 percent in a year. And that’s heating up the real estate market here in Snohomish County and elsewhere in Western Washington.
Snohomish County is better off if our growth arrives in more manageable chunks and gives communities time to prepare the ground for new businesses and residents while protecting the livability that makes us attractive to new and existing employers in the first place.