Connecticut shows renewed interest in Amazon HQ
State officials have reached out to Amazon in response to the reported foundering of its plans for a headquarters in Queens, N.Y., and city officials are also tracking the situation — moves that hint Connecticut could revive its bid for an east coast hub for the e-commerce giant.
The renewed contact with the company comes as Amazon purportedly reconsiders its proposal for more than 25,000 hires at a campus in Queens’ Long Island City section, in the wake of mounting opposition. If bidding were re-opened, Connecticut would probably again face long odds — its original offer did not make the “HQ2” shortlist — but the inquiries from Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration have garnered bipartisan support and show the growing confidence in the state’s economic competitiveness.
Lamont tweeted last Friday that the state had “made an outreach to Amazon through its in-state representation, and we are looking forward to expanding the dialogue.”
In an accompanying tweet, the new governor said the economic-development nonprofit Connecticut Economic Resource Center’s new co-chairpersons, former PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and former Webster Bank CEO Jim Smith, would “construct a path forward.”
Thomas Madden, Stamford’s director of economic development, told Hearst Connecticut Media that “we are monitoring the situation in New York.” He declined to comment further on Amazon.
As the Connecticut city closest to New York City, Stamford would arguably be the best-positioned among the state’s urban areas to take advantage of a prospective Amazon U-turn on the Long Island City complex.
“I absolutely think Stamford should take steps to attract Amazon here and that we, as a state, should be doing everything we can to attract and welcome innovative, high job-growth companies like Amazon to Connecticut,” said state Rep. Caroline Simmons, D- Stamford, who is also co-chairwoman of the state Legislature’s Commerce Committee.
“If Amazon wishes to keep its second headquarters in the northeast, I think Connecticut is the best choice,” Camillo said. “Amazon would bring thousands of high-paying jobs to our state, and, in return, they would benefit from the talented workforce we have to offer. As a member of the Commerce Committee, I look forward to discussing ways to make our state more appealing to many large businesses looking to relocate.”
In October 2017, the state Department of Economic and Community Development submitted a proposal for Stamford or the Hartford area to house a new headquarters to accompany Amazon’s main offices in Seattle.
Separate from the official state application, Bridgeport and New Haven, as one applicant, and Danbury, on its own, turned in plans.
No Connecticut cities, however, made the shortlist of 20 areas for HQ2 that Amazon announced in January 2018.
Last November, the company unveiled not one, but two, new campus picks: Long Island City and Arlington, Va. Amazon plans to hire more than 25,000 employees at each of those sites and invest $5 billion across the two locations.
But New York political leaders including U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; New York Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris; and New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson have decried the Amazon pact, which includes up to approximately $3 billion in state and local subsidies.
Any city in Connecticut would struggle to provide the space and labor supply needed to support an Amazon hub.
The state had proposed Amazon occupying, in a first phase in Stamford, a total of about 1.3 million square feet, at 677 Washington Blvd., 1 Elmcroft Road and 2187 Atlantic St. Hartford offered about 560,000 square feet, in two downtown towers on the Connecticut River, for the initial stage.
The tight labor market compounds the predicament. Unemployment in Stamford now runs at only 3 percent, according to the state Department of Labor.
Connecticut would also be hard-pressed to match the scale of the tax breaks that would support the Long Island City campus. Through the state’s flagship corporate-growth program, First Five Plus, no company has qualified for more than $71 million in subsidies.
Amazon is already a First Five Plus participant. It is eligible for up to $20 million in tax credits for its distribution center in North Haven. The company last year employed about 2,000 in the state, according to DECD data.
At the same time, Stamford’s robust economy hardly depends on another Amazon bid to maintain its growth.
Last December, jobs-search firm Indeed announced plans to add 500 local positions in the coming years, following a 2017 pledge to create another 500 posts at its downtown offices.
Other corporate expansions in Stamford were announced last year by IT consulting and research firm Gartner, professional-services firms KPMG and PwC, reality-show producer ITV America, entertainment-startup Wheelhouse Entertainment and genomic-testing firm Sema4.
Meanwhile, cable-and-Internet giant Charter Communications is building a new headquarters, next to the downtown Metro-North station.
“Our focus is really on the retention and expansion of local companies and making sure they have the talent and workforce they’re looking for in the area,” Madden said.
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