CREDC: 2nd Amazon headquarters ‘incredible opportunity’

By Troy Brynelson, Columbian staff writer

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After Amazon’s announcement last week that it would open a second headquarters, cities across the United States seemed to start plucking their résumés.

Clark County and the Vancouver-Portland metropolitan area will be no different, throwing its collective hat in the ring, according to the Columbia River Economic Development Council.

The organization, paid by local governments to recruit and retain businesses, doesn’t normally disclose active projects. Amazon’s announcement, which has already stirred national interest, is an exception.

“A project of this scale is certainly an incredible opportunity that will require strong collaboration among regional partners in order to be competitive against other communities,” President Mike Bomar said in a statement.

At stake, according to Amazon, is a $5 billion investment. Amazon will build its new headquarters and hire 50,000 people, it said, creating a multibillion-dollar windfall for whichever community lands it.

Amazon’s existing Seattle headquarters offers a comparison. There, 40,000-plus workers were paid $25.7 billion between 2010 and June 2017, Amazon said. The company’s economic gravity led to $38 billion of indirect investment and the growth of Fortune 500 companies in downtown Seattle to rise from seven to 31, according to Amazon.

But, the Seattle headquarters is also made up of 33 buildings and 8.1 million square feet. A second headquarters doesn’t have to be comprised of multiple buildings, Amazon said, but it would prefer to be in a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people or in the suburbs of one.

Bomar addressed this only by saying the CREDC, and its metro-area counterpart Greater Portland Inc., is “very intentional in working with our partners to develop a creative solution to meet the needs of each client.”

Bomar trumpeted the region’s talent pool of workers, low utility rates and a large amount of shovel-ready land. The region also boasts access to Portland International Airport and “multi-modal transportation routes providing convenient access to West Coast and international markets.”

Clark County as a whole does have some real estate at the right stages. The Vancouver Waterfront, a 32-acre development that broke ground last year near the former site of the Boise Cascade paper mill, forecasts 1.25 million square feet of class A office space to be built in the next few years.

Cities have six weeks to submit proposals and cities have already begun to flex their muscles. Chicago, Nashville, Tenn., and Philadelphia, among others, announced plans within days. Experts say cities will offer tax incentives to separate themselves from the pack.

Locally, supporters will have to address that the Vancouver-Portland metro area is less than 200 miles from Seattle. That fact will be left to Amazon to consider, CREDC officials said.