Minnesota in the hunt for Amazon headquarters

Minnesota courting Amazon for new headquarters... but is it worth it?

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Minnesota communities will vie for Amazon's second headquarters, described by the company as a corporate campus employing up to 50,000 employees, including many with high executive level pay.

The ascendant technology giant took the unusual step of announcing it is shopping for an additional home, with the public release of the request for proposals, or RFP, for the "HQ2" project.

Some are calling it the Amazon Sweepstakes, with at least 60 cities that meet the company's minimum standards and expected to make a bid ahead of the Oct. 19 deadline.

"The first thing we sell to companies is our quality of life in Minnesota," Shawntera Hardy, the commissioner for Minnesota's Department or Employment and Economic Development, or DEED, told KARE.

"That's what companies are looking for; they want to first make sure their employees have a place they can really call home, and so that's what we're selling -- we're selling our communities."

Commissioner Hardy's staff will be coordinating with the regional economic development partnership known as Greater MSP and local communities, vetting sites and proposals.

Amazon envisions a space large enough to house a cluster of office buildings -- 100 acres at least -- but also a site within reasonable driving distance of a major airport and with direct access to mass transit lines. The company also favor business-friendly communities.

"We have Fortune 500 companies that have started here, that have invested in our communities, that have been here very long, and that quality of life is what keeps them here," Hardy remarked.

"Those are global companies that can be anywhere in the world and they choose to stay in Minnesota."

Republican legislative leaders have also expressed interest in working with Amazon on tax relief and cutting through regulatory red tape. The legislature's not in session, so the initial bid would be limited to existing programs that companies can tap into for loans, grants and training partnerships.

Local communities and port authorities also have opportunities to offer temporary tax incentives, although the practice has at times been controversial.

Rep. Tina Liebling, a Rochester Democrat who is also running for governor, doesn't agree with the idea of competing for Amazon.

"I think too often governments are willing to just give away the store to lure big corporations to come and take advantage of the amenities we have to offer," Rep. Liebling told KARE. "But in the end those companies have no loyalty to us."

She said people who work for large corporations will use schools and other government services, so they should be expected to be on the same playing field as other employers.

"If we get some big corporation that comes in and says 'Give us a tax break' the bottom line is other people who are paying taxes in Minnesota are paying for the stuff that they are getting."

Commissioner Hardy said her agency will take existing businesses and taxpayers into consideration as it moves through the process.

"We are doing our due diligence on this proposal," she explained. "At the top of mind is making sure it makes sense for Minnesota."

Other Democrats in the governor's race have welcomed the opportunity for the state to host the new headquarters and the jobs and spinoff economic activity it would bring. One of them, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said his city has many idea locations.

Another candidate, Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis, even suggested the former Ford plant site in St. Paul as a viable location. He said the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site in Arden Hills would also be ideal.

© 2017 KARE-TV


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