Amazon Nixes Connecticut's Bids For 2nd Headquarters

Amazon Inc. has rejected Connecticut’s long-shot bid for its second headquarters, announcing Thursday the selection of 20 jurisdictions as finalists in the online retailer’s closely watched North American competition.

Other Connecticut proposals — made separately by Bridgeport-New Haven, Danbury and Enfield — also fell as Amazon said it sorted through 238 plans.

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough,” the Seattle company said in a prepared statement. “All the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity.”

Catherine Smith, commissioner of the state Department of Economic and Community Development, said a look at the finalists shows Amazon is interested in cities much bigger than what Connecticut offers. “When you’re recruiting 50,000 people, you have to have access to a very large talent pool,” she said.

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed, but not surprised in some ways,” Smith said.

In a statement, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Connecticut “did not have a large enough metropolitan area for this particular proposal.”

New Haven Mayor Toni Harp said that. despite Amazon’s decision. she is willing to match the New Haven area’s “talent pool, market accessibility, quality of life and cultural amenities with literally any other American city.”

New England still has a shot at the prize: Boston was picked as a finalist.

The offer was tantalizing to communities. Amazon promises to spend up to $5 billion developing 8 million square feet of office space for 50,000 workers. In addition, the high-tech company, valued at $624 billion, is a magnet for highly educated workers who write software, research artificial intelligence and otherwise delve into next-generation technology.

Other cities chosen were Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Miami; Montgomery County, Maryland; Nashville, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; New York City; Northern Virginia; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Raleigh, N.C.; Toronto, Ontario; and Washington, D.C.

With its short list, Amazon is covering the nation’s political capital by including Washington, D.C., and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Amazon founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Connecticut pitched Stamford and Hartford-East Hartford after paring a list of 17 municipalities hoping to make the final cut. Proposals also were submitted to Amazon by Danbury, New Haven and Bridgeport in a single bid, and Enfield, which pitched the faded Enfield Square Mall as a site for Amazon’s second headquarters.

While many of the cities chosen by Amazon are major population centers, smaller cities such as Columbus, Ohio, are not. Still, with a 2016 population of 860,090, Ohio’s capital city is significantly larger than Hartford and East Hartford, with a combined population in 2016 of 174,495, and Stamford, with a population of 129,113.

It’s also home to Ohio State University, a state institution with an enrollment of more than 66,000.

In its proposal to Amazon, Connecticut officials broadened the potential sites for the retailer’s headquarters, with the Hartford-East Hartford and Stamford regions each boasting a population of 1 million, a requirement set by Amazon.

The two cities also offer a “deep talent pool,” are close to international airports and have easy access to mass transit and interstate highways, the state said in its proposal.

State officials submitted Connecticut’s proposal in October, touting the state’s rivers and forests, universities, industry, transportation and communities.

It included a video narrated by Malloy, who described Connecticut as a “great place to live, from the shores of Long Island Sound to the hills of Litchfield and everywhere in between.”

Connecticut’s bid may not have been helped by its chronic state budget troubles and weak economic and labor force growth. Among Amazon’s requirements is a preference for a “stable and business-friendly environment.”

Cities and states juiced their proposals to Amazon with promises of financial aid. Just before leaving office this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation authorizing billions of dollars in potential tax credits to lure Amazon to Newark.

Connecticut did not provide details of its financial aid offer to Amazon. It included an incentive package with a commitment to a long-term single tax rate and a “partnership fund” tapping some of the billions generated by the Amazon headquarters to pay for schools, housing, transportation and other public systems that would feel an impact from the new Amazon headquarters.

Amazon expects to make a decision later this year.

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