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Regional cooperation aided Amazon HQ bid

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Now that Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. has submitted its bid to win Amazon’s second headquarters, the wait is on to see if it will be the winner.

Last month was the deadline for cities and regions to respond to a request for proposals from the online retail giant looking to build a second headquarters that would be the full equal to its Seattle campus, which has 33 buildings, 8.1 million square feet and employs more than 40,000 people.

Amazon, which already has several large warehouse and distribution centers in Lehigh and Northampton counties, accepted proposals from only cities or regional development organizations in North America.

LVEDC reached out to county officials, cities and developers in Lehigh and Northampton counties to identify potential sites for the second headquarters, said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC. He declined to disclose any of the sites, citing a nondisclosure agreement the organization has with Amazon.

“This is a high-profile proposal,” Cunningham said. “We put forth several locations. It really is an issue of Lehigh Valley versus other, better-known locations.”

FINANCIAL INCENTIVES ALREADY HERE

One factor that the Valley has going for it is the financial incentives that already are in place, he added. These include the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone in Bethlehem and Neighborhood Improvement Zone in Allentown.

It represents a significant investment for Amazon, which is expected to make a final decision about the second headquarters in 2018. The company said it received 238 proposals. The deadline for proposals was Oct. 19.

Even if Amazon chose Philadelphia, which also submitted a bid, it would create a significant impact on the Lehigh Valley, Cunningham added.

POTENTIALLY 50,000 EMPLOYEES

According to Amazon’s RFP, the company plans to hire as many as 50,000 new full-time employees with an average salary that exceeds $100,000 over the next 10 to 15 years once the second headquarters is operating.

The jobs will likely include executive/management, engineering, legal, accounting and administrative. The company said it would prioritize shovel-ready sites and plans to invest more than $5 billion in capital expenditures in the project.

“We really worked hard to showcase the Lehigh Valley as the best of both worlds,” Cunningham said. “We’ve got all the aspects of being in a New York or Philadelphia without the costs.”

CREATIVE SOLUTION

The quality of life here is high, and affordability for families is important in making the area marketable to a company such as Amazon.

“We’ve convinced ourselves that we’ve got the best proposal, but it’s going to take a willingness for Amazon to look beyond the largest markets,” Cunningham said.

“If there’s a willingness on Amazon’s part to look creatively at how you can combine a smaller market with a larger market, there are some powerful financial incentives built in. It just has to be an attractive home for 50,000 employees.”

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Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@lvb.com

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