Does Kentucky have a shot at Amazon's second headquarters?
Amazon.com announced an opportunity Thursday that would make most any mayor or governor salivate: The Seattle-based retailer is looking to for a second headquarters that could employ up to 50,000 people in high-paying jobs like software development.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Amazon.com announced an opportunity Thursday that would make most any mayor or governor salivate: The Seattle-based retailer is looking to for a second headquarters that could employ up to 50,000 people in high-paying jobs like software development.
The only Kentucky regions that might meet Amazon’s minimum criteria, including a metro area of 1 million people or more, are Louisville-Southern Indiana (1.3 million) and the Northern Kentucky, as part of the Cincinnati metro (2.2 million).
Spokespeople for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration and for the state Cabinet for Economic Development issued statements touting general advantages but declined to say what, if anything, they’re doing to make a run at Amazon’s second headquarters.
“(I)t’s clear Amazon and Kentucky already enjoy a significant relationship as Amazon is one of the leading employers in the state’s distribution and logistics industry,” said Jack Mazurak, spokesman for Gov. Matt Bevin’s economic development cabinet.
Mazurak noted that earlier this year, Amazon said it would invest nearly $1.5 billion to make northern Kentucky its Prime Air shipping hub.
“Clearly, this second headquarters will be welcome wherever the company decides to locate it,” he said.
Jessica Wethington, spokeswoman for Louisville Forward, Mayor Greg Fischer’s economic development agency, said Louisville “has a long history of excellence in logistics, eCommerce, advanced manufacturing, and business services. We are home to several Fortune 500 headquarters and many more regional HQ locations and globally connected corporations with major local operations.”
Kentucky has long been competitive for the part of Amazon’s business that involves moving packages around.
Amazon’s presence in the state dates to 1999, when the company, then a five-year-old startup, opened a warehouse in Campbellsville.
Now the company employs about 10,000 people in the state on a year-round basis and many more during the holidays.
It would be a much bigger hurdle for any part of Kentucky to show it has the workforce and urban amenities to absorb such a big chunk of Amazon’s white-collar operations.
“The Project must be sufficiently close to a significant population center, such that it can fill the 50,000 estimated jobs that will be required over multiple years,” Amazon said in a seven-page Request for Proposals made public Thursday. “A highly educated labor pool is critical and a strong university system is required.”
Amazon also wants the new headquarters to be close to an “international airport with daily direct flights to Seattle, New York, San Francisco/Bay Area, and Washington, D.C.”
Despite its name, Louisville International Airport does not have nonstop international flights – nor flights to Seattle or San Francisco. Some business leaders are trying to change that, but there have been no results so far.
Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport would appear to meet Amazon’s criteria, however, with at least one direct flight to each of the cities mentioned.
Even if the Amazon project were to locate in Cincinnati, its magnitude would likely benefit northern Kentucky, with some employees buying homes on the Kentucky side of the river and increased traffic at the airport.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Thursday that JobsOhio, the state's privatized economic development arm, wouldn't comment on the Amazon opportunity.
Amazon said other factors in the decision include public incentives offered by state and local governments; help with finding existing buildings or greenfield sites on which to build the complex; and cultural attributes.
“This 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,” the company said in the RFP.