Technology

Sacramento area throws hat in the ring for Amazon’s ‘HQ2’

By Mark Glover

mglover@sacbee.com

October 18, 2017 12:34 PM

UPDATED October 19, 2017 11:19 AM

Sacramento-area leaders on Wednesday formally announced their bid to land Amazon.com’s second headquarters with a proposal that offers 12 alternative sites immediately ready for Amazon’s needs.

Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council, which organized the Amazon bid over five weeks, was joined at a morning press conference at Golden 1 Center by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento Congresswoman Doris Matsui, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and Roseville Mayor Susan Rohan.

Broome said the Sacramento area’s bid – which includes 100 pages of analysis and hundreds of pages of detail on regional sites for Amazon to set up shop – was “the No. 1 proposal in California by a long shot.”

The regional bid offers alternative sites including Sacramento’s railyard area and the former Sleep Train Arena in North Natomas. The Bridge District in West Sacramento also is in the bid, along with Sacramento County’s Aerojet property, and nearby Folsom Ranch. Sacramento County’s Metro Air Park also was listed as a business site in the bid.

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Other regional sites are 290 Conference Center Drive in Roseville, El Dorado Hills in El Dorado County, United Auburn Indian Community tribal land in Placer County, Twelve Bridge Road in Lincoln, the “South East Policy Area” in Elk Grove and Sutter Pointe in Sutter County. Broome noted that the sites include a mix of already existing buildings and open space.

Broome, who spoke with reporters in a roundtable gathering after the public press conference, said that the Sacramento region’s bid stands out because the area is instantly “ready” to act on Amazon’s needs. He said fast-moving companies like Amazon prefer that, saying “they can’t wait.”

Steinberg echoed that, noting that he was among the key lawmakers in the state Legislature who quickly put together a statewide development deal with Amazon in 2011, which set off a fast, job-boosting surge by Amazon throughout the Golden State. Steinberg also stressed the Sacramento region’s proximity to a giant pool of technology talent, with multiple universities, including Stanford and the University of California. He mentioned the possibility of creating an “Amazon university” to train regional talent for the massive firm.

Broome and Ranadive also touted Sacramento International Airport, which recently ranked No. 1 in a J.D. Power customer-satisfaction survey among American airports, with 15 daily nonstop flights to Amazon’s current sole headquarters site in Seattle.

Given all the positives, Matsui claimed that Sacramento was not begging, “please, please please …We are the one.”

The scale of the regional proposal is massive. For example, developer and Kings minority owner Mark Friedman said the Bridge District site in West Sacramento is envisioned comprising 188 acres, with a potential 8 million square feet of office space and 4,000 residential units, plus a bike path extending out into the Sacramento River.

“This would absolutely spectacular,” said Friedman, president of Fulcrum Property Group. “We’re talking about nearly a mile of waterfront, fully zoned and entitled. You could start construction tomorrow.”

He added: “There’s never been anything this big, and I think it will help us get other relocations, even if we’re unsuccessful with Amazon.”

Amazon announced on Sept. 7 that it was looking for a second headquarters in the United States. The announcement included numerous eye-popping numbers: $5 billion in construction as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs. In addition, Amazon said expects its so-called “HQ2” to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the selected community.

Amazon has estimated that its investments in Seattle over the past six years alone have pumped an additional $38 billion into the city’s economy.

The Seattle retail/tech giant has indicated that it is looking at U.S. metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people, a business-friendly environment, a solid base of strong talent with technology skills and a strong real estate market.

Amazon’s HQ2 wish list also includes a site within 30 miles of a major population center, within 45 minutes of an international airport and within a couple miles of a major highway. An initial build site of at least 500,000 square feet also should have room for expansion well beyond that initial space, in Amazon’s specs.

Thursday is the deadline for metro areas to submit their bids to land Amazon’s HQ2. Competition is expected to be brutal, with most of the nation’s big metro markets submitting detailed proposals.

This year, Amazon started building a new 855,000-square-foot distribution center near Sacramento International Airport and is hiring 1,500 full-time workers for the facility. That warehouse is part of a national hiring spree by the company. Amazon said earlier this year that it plans to hire 100,000 new employees around the country by the middle of 2018.

Also on Thursday, a Southern California trade association called the California Business and Industrial Alliance bought a full-page ad in the northwest edition of USA Today, warning Amazon of what it calls the risks of selecting a California site for a second headquarters.

The CABIA ad shows a “Greetings From California” postcard with a “Closed” sign. Large headline type above that reads, “Dear Amazon: Our Weather Is Nice. Our Business Climate Is Not.” CABIA’s website says it is devoted to reforming California laws that it says are harmful to job creation and business. Sacramento leaders on Wednesday scoffed at the ad’s message, noting that Amazon has built up enormous infrastructure and thousands of jobs throughout California in just the past five years.

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Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover