Minnesota squeezes into the race for new Amazon headquarters

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With the chance of 50,00 new jobs, Minnesota's not wasting any time. But the winning welfare package could very well be mammoth. Global Panorama

Amazon is shopping for a new city to host its second North American headquarters, which will come with as many as 50,000 jobs paying more than $100,000.

The announcement came Thursday morning, and suitors are buzzing from coast to coast. Some have apparently gotten a head start -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago has allegedly had "several conversations" with CEO Jeff Bezos, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The company knows exactly what it wants though, publishing a request for proposal (RFP) outlining the top qualities it desires in a new home.

1. Site: About 180 acres, preferably shovel-ready greenfield so Amazon can build whatever it wants.

2. Capital costs and business climate: Stable, pro-corporation regulations and tax structure, a culture other large companies have thrived in and would recommend.

3. Incentives: Just think big and creative. Bring whatever you've got. But keep in mind: Foxconn just got $3 billion to create 3,000 jobs, meaning the state won't recuperate its money for 25 years -- if the plant's still open. 

4. Labor force: A metro area with a highly educated population of more than 1 million, and a strong university system.

5. Logistics: Proximity to an international airport, easy access to the highway, local roads that aren't traffic traps.

6. Time to operations: A permitting process that won't take forever.

7. Quality of life: Art, recreation, education, and an overall vibrant playground for employees to find life outside of work.

When State Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL – Minneapolis) read that this morning, he got pretty excited, despite the competition and bidding frenzy sure to come, that the Twin Cities actually has a good chance of enticing Amazon.

The Twin Cities easily has more than 1 million people, easy access to MSP airport, a world-class university system, a fanaticism for parks, a diverse arts scene, developing mass transit, and a pile of big companies like Cargill, Best Buy, 3M, and Mayo Clinic. Amazon already has a distribution center in Shakopee and a tech office in downtown Minneapolis.

If the company's used to Seattle, the Twin Cities won't be a huge transition, Thissen says. And as contemporary wisdom goes, the Twin Cities is wicked cold, but the quality of life makes it hard to quit.

"I think our pitch has to be about this is the place you wanna be to do business, as opposed to just getting into a bidding war that's just going to be a race to the bottom," Thissen says.

But Minnesota's going to have to offer subsidies. Amazon's going to attract daring offers from other states just as hungry to have it, and Minnesota has to get creative in designing the perfect package to assist the company with its estimated $5 billion buildout.

The largest subsidies Minnesota has ever granted, according to Washington, D.C. welfare tracker Good Jobs First, have only gone as high as $838 million for Northwest Airlines, $585 million for Mayo Clinic to build its Destination Medical Center campus, and $250 million for Triple Five to expand the Mall of America.

Amazon wants responses by October 19. Govenor Mark Dayton announced Thursday afternoon that he's directed Commissioner Shawntera Hardy of the Department of Employment and Economic Development to start working with city, regional, and state partners on drafting a proposal.

 


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