Colorado’s bid to lure Amazon HQ2 is heavy on talent and transportation

Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. released a redacted version of the 77-page document that Colorado sent to lure Amazon.

Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation Vice President Sam Bailey speaks at a meeting on Denver's bid for Amazon HQ2 at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Nov. 16, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

amazon; hq2; development; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation Vice President Sam Bailey speaks at a meeting on Denver's bid for Amazon HQ2 at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Nov. 16, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) amazon; hq2; development; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation Vice President Sam Bailey speaks at a meeting on Denver’s bid for Amazon HQ2 at the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Nov. 16, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Gov. John Hickenlooper told Jeff Bezos in the state’s bid for Amazon’s new North American headquarters that business and civic leaders would “ensure your investment gets results.”

Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. released Thursday a redacted version of the 77-page document that Colorado sent to lure Amazon. The proposal makes good on pledges from economic development officials to work together to put the area’s talent and amenities ahead of incentives.

“We don’t buy companies. We don’t pick winners and losers,” said J.J. Ament, CEO of Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

“We don’t have to compete in the same ways other places do,” he said.

Metro Denver EDC kept some information from the public Thursday when they released the official proposal sent to Amazon including which cities and sites where pitched and the “potential value of incentives” the Seattle-based e-commerce behemoth could get from state programs.

State officials left in details highlighting Colorado’s 14ers, live music, FasTracks and the Denver International Airport. The information was included in “a customized book” to highlight Amazon’s book-selling roots as well as an Amazon Fire 8 to call on the company’s focus on digital and video.

“In short, we’re committed to building the most pro-business state government with the highest environmental and ethical standards,” Hickenlooper wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

He went on to say, “We believe that Colorado, and this entire region, can deliver more for the Amazon family than any other state in the country.”

An example of the bid box that Denver sent to Amazon, courting the tech giant to settle their massive HQ2 here. Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Nov. 16, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) amazon; hq2; development; kevinjbeaty; denver; denverite; colorado;
An example of the bid box that Denver sent to Amazon, courting the tech giant to settle their massive HQ2 here. Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Nov. 16, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)
Delivering more for Amazon

Amazon announced its search for a home for its second headquarters — “HQ2” — in September. The facility would employ as many as 50,000 people and bring more than $5 billion in construction and operations investments.

Denver and other cities in Metro Denver worked with the state and Metro Denver EDC to send Amazon one proposal from Colorado.

“I can’t say it more, talent is the foremost driver in our proposal,” said Sam Bailey, vice president of economic development for the Metro Denver EDC.

Metro Denver EDC said the state has nearly 140,000 people working in positions that are similar to what Amazon might be looking to bring with its headquarters. Those positions include chief executives, general and operations managers and software developers. Plus, the state is adding more people to the workforce every day with newcomers moving here and students graduating from area universities and colleges.

A letter signed by computer science professors from seven major Colorado universities, including the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the University of Denver and Colorado School of Mines, was included in the proposal.

“Should you choose to locate in the Front Range we all would welcome collaborating with you on research, placing our graduates in internships and jobs, broadening diversity interventions, and innovative curriculum efforts,” the letter states.

An RTD train crosses Speer Boulevard by the Convention Center. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite) rtd; light rail; denver; colorado; denverite; kevinjbeaty;
An RTD train crosses Speer Boulevard by the Convention Center. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

In addition to talent, transportation also played a pivotal role in the proposal.

The state called out an estimate that DIA will serve 60 million travelers in 2017.

“To meet future demand, we are expanding our operations to serve 100 million travelers in the coming decades,” the proposal states. “We will add six new non-intersecting runways without infringing on a community because we plan ahead. DEN is the only airport capable of this type of expansion.”

The proposal also claims Colorado is invested in ground transportation infrastructure.

“North, south, east and west, CDOT is investing nearly $2 billion in mobility in the metro in the next six years,” the document states ahead of listing the planned improvements to Interstates 25 and 70 and C-470.

Hickenlooper often points out the $9 billion gap in the state’s transportation system. The governor recently started tying the issue to the state’s ability to attract companies like Amazon and said infrastructure issues could be one reason Colorado landing  HQ2 is a “longshot.”

The former CEO of Metro Denver EDC, Tom Clark, seemed slightly more hopeful during a panel at the Denver Press Club this week.

Clark said Toronto was his best bet to land Amazon HQ2 due to the area’s quality of health insurance, political climate and airport. Other top contenders included New York, Atlanta and Boston.

“A lot of this is about airports,” he said. “You have to have an airport that has a transatlantic or transpacific airplane going up every hour. That’s not us.”

Even if we don’t get HQ2

While Amazon may be the most high-profile company Colorado officials are trying to land, dozens of other businesses are also in communication with the state. The proposal released Thursday is a behind-the-scenes look at how economic development folks are engaging with the private sector.

“This has aligned our community in a way that few other projects have been able to do. That has value well beyond Amazon,” Ament said. “These resources, these tools, the community alignment as it relates to growing our economy — this is all beneficial to us weather Amazon chooses us or not, so it works out.”

Subscribe to Denverite’s newsletter here.

Business & data reporter Adrian D. Garcia can be reached via email at agarcia@denverite.com or twitter.com/adriandgarcia.

Adrian D. Garcia

Author: Adrian D. Garcia

Adrian D. Garcia is on business and trends for Denverite, serves as treasurer for the Colorado chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and on the board of the Denver Press Club. He can be reached at agarcia@denverite.com.