Louisville spent $170,000 on unsuccessful bid for Amazon's second headquarters
The Louisville region spent about $170,000 in private donations and taxpayer funds preparing its unsuccessful bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, top economic development officials said Friday.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Louisville region spent about $170,000 in private donations and taxpayer funds preparing its unsuccessful bid for Amazon’s second headquarters, top economic development officials said Friday.
The money – about $100,000 raised by Greater Louisville Inc., the metro chamber commerce; and about $70,000 from Louisville Metro’s economic development budget – went to things like promotional videos touting the city’s livability and business climate.
The money was not wasted, officials said, because the materials can be “repurposed” for other economic development pitches.
Amazon said Thursday that it had selected 20 metro areas from 238 applications as finalists for the project, in which the company plans to build a companion to its current Seattle headquarters.
With a promised $5 billion in investment and up to 50,000 high-paying jobs, it’s the “Super Bowl” of economic development competitions, Greater Louisville Inc. CEO Kent Oyler said Friday.
“People worked very, very hard for weeks to get this proposal out,” Oyler said, referring the local efforts.
Officials continued to refuse to disclose how much Amazon was offered in public incentives to bring the second headquarters to Louisville.
Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, Mayor Greg Fischer’s top economic development official, deferred the question to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, which governs the city-state incentive programs offered to businesses.
But Jack Mazurak, a spokesman for the cabinet, said incentive amounts are generally negotiated "toward the end of the process" of landing a company, which never occurred with Amazon.
"Any potential program, incentive type or range of amounts that might be included in a proposal would be only as a starting point for negotiations later on," he said in an email.
Louisville Metro has so far refused to release documents comprising the city’s bid for Amazon, saying state law allows economic development records to kept confidential.
Wiederwohl said almost all of the finalist cities Amazon named have larger populations than Louisville – even some that are close by like Indianapolis, Nashville and Columbus, Ohio.
But the “real differentiator,” she said, is that Louisville does not have a large enough pool of “tech talent” – in other words, skilled workers like software developers -- to meet Amazon’s demand.
“You’ve got to have the talent; you’ve got to have the workforce. That is something we’ve known, it’s something we are working on as a community,” she said. “This is not a wake-up call. This is not news. We are doing the right things; we just have to keep doing them.”
Greater Louisville Inc. spokeswoman Alison Brotzge-Elder said the $100,000 in private funds raised by the chamber went toward three promotional videos -- one of which, called "Louisville Bold," was played earlier this week at the chamber's annual meeting.
She said funds also paid for promotional materials and the graphic design, printing and physical packaging of the bid documents.
Louisville Forward, the economic development arm of Louisville Metro government, said its $70,000 went for drone footage and "creative for concept and design for paper and electronic submissions," according to spokeswoman Jessica Wethington.
Wiederwohl said the city drew about $70,000 from the pot it uses to respond to requests from companies and conduct site visits. Amazon officials, who are familiar with the area because of their local distribution centers and budding air hub in northern Kentucky, did not visit the city as part of the headquarters bid, she said.
But the company was complimentary of the city, Wiederwohl said.
"The major feedback was, 'Keep doing what you are doing. You have planted the seeds for growth. You are doing the right things to keep going, keep forging ahead,'" she said. "And of course this is not the last opportunity."