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As Amazon whittles down list of HQ sites, real work begins for DC region’s leaders

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is seen in this Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Seattle. Amazon is searching for the site of its second headquarters that will be home to an estimated 50,000 employees. The online retail giant announced Thursday that Montgomery County, D.C., and Northern Virginia were among its top 20 preferred locations. The company is expected to announce its decision later this year. (AP File Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Pros, cons of DC region as Amazon considers future HQ - Katie Arcieri, Washington Business Journal

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WASHINGTON — Leaders in D.C., Maryland and Northern Virginia cheered news Thursday that sites in the capital region landed on Amazon’s short list for its second headquarters.

As many as 50,000 high-paying jobs are at stake and the entire region stands to benefit, regardless which side of the Potomac Amazon would choose to locate. Atlanta, Dallas and Pittsburgh are among the other cities vying for the headquarters.

Amazon rejected proposals from Baltimore and Prince George’s County in Maryland plus Richmond and Hampton Roads in Virginia.

“Making this list reaffirms what we already knew going into the bid process,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement. “D.C. is no longer a one-company government town. We are a leader in innovation and tech, brimming with top talent and endless opportunity.”

D.C. submitted four possible locations in its pitch to Amazon, including sites already slated for redevelopment in Noma, near Nationals Park, near RFK Stadium plus sites in the Shaw neighborhood and on the adjacent Howard University campus.

Several sites in Northern Virginia were part of the state’s pitch to Amazon including one along the Fairfax-Loudoun county line.

Sharon Bulova, chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, said she is very excited that the region is still being considered.

“Fairfax and Loudoun counties are able to offer a great quality of life coupled with an innovative and business friendly culture for future Amazon corporate neighbors and employees,” Bulova’s statement reads.

“We couldn’t be prouder,” said Gov. Ralph Northam. He pledged to continue supporting the region’s communities as they work to convince Amazon to choose Virginia.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett declined to give specifics about what sites, or how much in incentives the county and state are offering. But he called it “an honor” for the county to have been selected for further discussions with Amazon.

“I believe our initial proposal made an extremely strong case for Montgomery County as a great place do business, and I look forward to working with Amazon to bring jobs and investment to the County,” Leggett said.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan pledged to work with officials in Montgomery County to “ensure that we do everything possible to bring this project home.”

Maryland plans to offer a $5 billion incentive package that includes tax incentives plus road and transit improvements to help entice Amazon to move to the state, according to the governor’s office.

“This news is certainly welcome, but the real challenge lies ahead and Maryland is ready to meet it,” Hogan said in a statement.

Amazon has said that it would consider incentive packages as it decides where to build its offices. Access to transit and a major metropolitan area that can attract top technical talent are among the many factors the company has said it will consider.

More than 40,000 people are employed at Amazon’s flagship headquarters in Seattle, where the company plans to remain.

Now it gets real

Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer said he was “elated” to hear that the county was still being considered. But now the real work begins. Negotiations, finalizing sites that would meet Amazon’s needs and planning for the possible wave of new residents will force the region to address housing, transportation, schools and other services.

“We know we’re negotiating with one of the best businesses in the world. So it’s going to be a very interesting conversation,” said Reimer.

Del. Bill Frick, the House majority leader and a candidate for Montgomery County executive, urged the region’s leaders to collaborate as they move forward in the selection process.

“The success of Montgomery County, like other area jurisdictions, is tied to the success of our region as a whole. The entire region wins when a large employer like Amazon comes to town,” Frick said in a statement. “Show Amazon — and the world — that the D.C. metro area, already teeming with exceptional residents and institutions, is a great place to thrive and build a business.”

War for talent

The capital region offers Amazon the chance to maintain a presence near federal leaders.

“Many of the policies that will affect Amazon in the future are being determined here,” said Arthur Dong, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.

The availability of housing, coupled with the high number of college graduates and the selection of colleges and universities based here also make the region a compelling choice for Amazon, Dong said.

However, the chief factor for Amazon will likely be whether the company will be able to attract, and retain a talented workforce.

“It’s a war for talent,” he said.

Competitors like Walmart have poached Amazon staff and if the company wants to keep growing, it’ll need to keep those workers on the payroll, Dong said.

Amazon already maintains a sizable presence in the region.

Amazon Web Services, which serves as a cloud computing contractor for the federal government, is planning to open a corporate campus in Herndon. Amazon also operates fulfillment centers in Sterling and in Baltimore. CEO Jeff Bezos owns a home in the District’s Kalorama neighborhood and he is also the owner of The Washington Post.


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