Colorado’s Amazon HQ2 bid: Colorado is awesome

State and local officials highlighted Colorado’s location, workforce, transportation, quality of life and opportunities for collaboration.

An Amazon Flex van parked in City Park West. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

amazon flex; delivery; kevinjbeaty; denverite; denver; colorado;

Should Amazon choose Colorado for its second North American headquarters, it will have access to range of tax credits and economic incentives, but those programs are not at the center of the bid submitted Wednesday by the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

Instead, state and local economic development officials highlighted Colorado’s location, workforce, transportation, quality of life and opportunities for collaboration to make the case for the online retail giant to move here.

“Our focus is not to buy a project but to create an environment where Amazon can seamlessly integrate and grow so they can best serve their customers,” said Sam Bailey, vice president of economic development for the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp.

The bid itself was not released and the eight potential locations along the Front Range remain confidential. Bailey said there are a number of sites that meet or exceed the criteria described by Amazon, but it will be up to the company to evaluate and choose among them.

Bailey said the bid builds on investments the state has already made in infrastructure, education and business supports and that by not pulling together a special incentive package just for Amazon, Colorado demonstrates its fiscal responsibility.

Amazon will have access to Colorado’s existing incentive programs. Those include the Strategic Fund Incentive, the Job Growth Incentive Tax Credit and the Colorado Enterprise Zone Tax Credit for companies that invest in “blighted” areas. Bailey said the bid does not put a dollar amount on these incentives because Amazon is not yet able to provide enough details about the 50,000 jobs the company says it will create over the next 10 to 15 years. The incentives could amount to tens of millions of dollars, but it depends on the type and quality of jobs created and the company’s larger investment in the surrounding community, ongoing workforce training and so on. Bailey told the Denver Post that based on previous incentive packages, the benefits could add up to more than $100 million.

Of course, lots of other cities — more than 50 so far and cities and states have until close of business on Thursday to submit — also think they have attractive qualities, and some are offering major incentive packages to boot. New Jersey is offering a $7 billion (with a B) incentive package for Amazon to move to Newark, and Maryland is promising its bid will be “mind-boggling” and the largest in state history.

Colorado’s benefits include a high level of connectivity with other parts of the U.S. and with Europe and Asia and an environment of collaboration between the private and public sectors here, Bailey said. He pointed to the RoadX collaboration between Panasonic and CDOT and said Colorado State University’s research on hybrid wheat played a role in attracting a Smucker’s Uncrustables factory in Longmont. (Longmont also approved a substantial incentive package for the jam and jelly manufacturer.)

Colorado also has a highly trained workforce and programs at state universities and community colleges that help students connect with employers, Bailey said.

“What better place for a second home than Colorado for Amazon?” Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a press release announcing the submittal of the bid. “I’m confident our proposal will be as competitive as any and will build on the current investment Amazon has made in our state. We believe that Colorado and this region can deliver more for Amazon than any other in North America. Our economy, workforce readiness initiatives, educational institutions and quality of life will all be stronger and more vibrant with a large Amazon presence in Colorado.”

Amazon’s search for a new headquarters has provoked a lot of angst in Denver that it will accelerate trends that are making the city less affordable. While Amazon’s brand will almost certainly attract people to move here, Bailey said, he believes the company will also provide a lot of opportunities for people who already live in Colorado.

“Ultimately, incentives will not drive this deal. It comes down to talent,” Bailey said. “Right now, we’re trying to educate Amazon on all the different benefits of coming to Colorado. Some of those are incentives, but it’s also talent and place.

“Our job is not to sell Amazon, but to show Amazon all the strategies and investments we’ve made that complement their company.”

Erica Meltzer

Author: Erica Meltzer

Erica Meltzer covers government and politics. She's worked for newspapers in Colorado, Arizona and Illinois and once won a First Amendment Award by showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time. She served in the Peace Corps in Paraguay and can swear fluently in Guarani. She gets emotional about public libraries. Contact Erica Meltzer at 303-502-2802, emeltzer@denverite.com or @meltzere.