Might Rhode Island – possibly Johnston – be the site for Amazon HQ2, a second North American headquarters, eventually employing 50,000 people?
That’s the hope of Rhode Island Commerce that plans to submit its proposal to bring the Internet marketing giant to the nation’s smallest state by the bid deadline next Thursday.
And where might Amazon HQ2 be built?
Commerce asked that question of municipalities last month in a letter sent by Brian Daniels, executive director of the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns.
“As we consider this new opportunity, we wanted to ask for your help in identifying further site options that fit Amazon’s requirements. Cities and towns know best which sites will be attractive to the company and beneficial to the community,” Daniels writes.
Mayor Joseph Polisena has a site in mind, one that he has proposed to Commerce.
Working with town planner Thomas Deller, Polisena has submitted a proposal utilizing a large swath of undeveloped land along Hartford Avenue. The town has sent their request, containing maps of the proposed development site along with a description of infrastructure, including the current Hartford Avenue sewer and water line extension project now under construction.
“We have that big parcel of land on Route 6, which is 111 acres, that’s one possibility. If they’re interested, at least we’re in the mix, we put in the offer,” said Polisena. “We also put in the fact that we have highway access right of Route 295. There’s a red light there. It’s opposite from the old Golden Triangle golf location. It’s the biggest parcel on Route 6.”
Polisena said he’s been in contact with Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor by phone on a few occasions regarding the proposal and knows that other communities are interested. He also stated that the proposal hinges on what current property owners decide in terms of what they want per acreage and how much will be sold.
“So I’m just doing the preliminary work of getting their attention and saying, “Hey, we’re here, if you’re interested this is the best place to be, right in the center of the state,” said the mayor.
Polisena highlighted the town’s “great school system and great recreation facilities” for potential employees if they want to move into the town.
Warwick is also in the running, although specific information isn’t being disclosed at this time.
Mayor Scott Avedisian is tight-lipped on the city’s proposal, not wanting to muddy the state’s bid by provoking a contest between municipalities. But it wouldn’t be surprising if Avedisian were to suggest the 100 acres of City Centre Warwick for consideration, promoting its proximity to Green Airport with its extended runway as well as rail and highway access. Warwick’s hotels would also surely be on the list of amenities.
In a statement Commerce Secretary Pryor said, “We have assembled a cross-organizational team, which is working with the Partnership for Rhode Island and the business community in response to Amazon’s RFP. We have solicited information from every city and town in Rhode Island regarding possible sites that meet Amazon’s requirements.”
Pryor goes on to say, Commerce looks forward “to reviewing the ideas and information compiled by Pawtucket and Central Falls, as well as others, as we showcase sites available within our state that would be ideal locations for Amazon’s HQ2.”
“Our goal is to submit the strongest possible unified proposal for Rhode Island,” he said.
Governor Gina Raimondo, in a statement released Wednesday, likewise emphasized the significance of the Amazon offer.
“This is an incredible opportunity for Rhode Island. Every other state in the nation is going for it, so we know it’s going to be competitive. But we know Rhode Island is the best – offering unbeatable quality of life and a friendly business environment – so we’re hopeful we’ll rise to the top.”
According to its request for proposals, Amazon is looking for a building of 500,000 square feet with the ability to grow to 8 million square feet by 2027.
Those requirements had Cranston Mayor Allan Fung thinking twice.
“We take a pragmatic approach to these types of projects and have reviewed the requirements laid out by Amazon,” he writes in an email. “While we could possibly accommodate their initial need for 500,000 square feet of office space, we aren’t sure if there’s anywhere in Rhode Island that could accommodate the 8 million square feet they ultimately are looking for in the long term. To put this project into scale, consider that in Cranston, the largest available building we have is 230,000 square feet. I believe that for Amazon to come to Rhode Island, a joint effort crossing multiple borders will be necessary.”
Polisena is lobbying for Johnston.
“We’ll see what happens and keep our fingers crossed,” he said Wednesday.
“I think Johnston is the wise choice. We’re in the center of everything, we’re close to 295, 95, 146, close to the city of Providence,” said Polisena. “Our roads can handle that much traffic, the exits are there and the red lights are there, it would be a perfect fit for Amazon and the town and a great tax generator along with all the jobs.”
According to the bid specifications, Amazon headquarters would hire as many as 50,000 new full-time employees with an average total compensation exceeding $100,000 over the next 10 to 15 years. The project is expected to have more than $5 billion in capital expenditures. The suggested site is 100 acres.
Among key preferences and decision drivers identified in the bid specifications are:
l A stable and business-friendly environment and tax structure.
l Incentives offered by the state and local communities to offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs.
l The project must be sufficiently close to a significant population center, such that it can fill the 50,000 estimated jobs.
l A highly educated labor pool and a strong university system is required.
l Highway corridors that provide direct access to significant population centers with eligible employment pools.
l Travel time to an international airport with daily direct flights to Seattle, New York, San Francisco/Bay Area and Washington, D.C.
l A compatible cultural and community environment that includes the presence and support of a diverse population, excellent institutions of higher education, local government structure and elected officials eager and willing to work with the company, among other attributes.
l A stable and consistent business climate.