Seventeen municipalities in the state competed for the $5 billion headquarters, which will eventually be staffed by 50,000 employees.
Catherine Smith, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said in a letter to local officials Monday that following “careful analysis” by a team of representatives of several state agencies, “we have decided to move forward with two sites” in the Stamford and Hartford regions.
The locations “meet the very specific project criteria outlined” by Amazon in its request for proposals to cities, states and Canadian provinces, she said.
Though numerous municipalities did not make the final cut with DECD, others may submit bids to Amazon directly. Bridgeport and New Haven, for example, are moving ahead with a proposal, said Rowena White, Bridgeport’s communications director.
Smith said that if Amazon decides to build its headquarters in Connecticut, “all of us will reap the benefits.”
Jim Watson, a spokesman for DECD, would not confirm that the agency has narrowed its focus to the central and southwestern regions of Connecticut.
“The department is making progress on the state submittal but we are not providing any additional details at this time,” he said in an emailed statement.
Amazon, based in Seattle, set an Oct. 19 deadline for cities, states and provinces to make their proposals for what it calls HQ2. It set off a chase among scores of jurisdictions that want the investment of talent and billions of dollars.
The online retailer specified a preference for metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people, a stable and business-friendly environment, urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and keep strong technical talent, and communities that “think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options.”
It also calls for proximity to an international airport, major highways and mass transit.
Initially, the headquarters will require 500,000 square feet with up to 8 million square feet in 10 years.
Michael Pollard, chief of staff to Stamford Mayor David Martin, cited the city’s proximity to New York, access to I-95 and its Metro-North Rail station, the second-largest after Grand Central Terminal.
“Stamford as a city has demonstrated an ability to attract large businesses and large corporations,” he said.
The pitch to Amazon will include Bethel, Ridgefield and Weston. Officials of Fairfield and Greenwich also have been involved in a regional approach, Pollard said.
Eileen Buckheit, development director for East Hartford, said the city and Hartford are jointly pitching the region to Amazon. She highlighted the Connecticut River as a quality-of-life asset, but did not provide details.
“That’s really the center, the river,” she said. “These days, people are really attracted to the water.”
Businesses met with state officials to offer help attracting Amazon, but deferred to Smith and the DECD, which ultimately will offer tax and loan packages if Connecticut is selected.
“The private-sector role I suspect will be whatever supports the commissioner’s needs,” said Brian Flaherty, senior vice president of public policy at the Connecticut Business & Industry Association.
Oz Griebel, CEO of the MetroHartford Alliance, the capital region’s chamber of commerce, said business owners offered testimonials about doing business in Connecticut, advocating for the state rather than a particular region.
“This is the first time I’ve seen a reaching-out by DECD to organizations like ours,” he said.