Connecticut Municipalities Take First Step To Snag Amazon HQ

Connecticut Municipalities Take First Step To Snag Amazon HQ

Hartford Courant, September 21, 2017

By Stephen Singer

As Connecticut readies its proposal to bag the second U.S. headquarters of Amazon Inc., municipalities in the state took their first step Tuesday to bring home the coveted online retailer.

Bridgeport, Fairfield, New Haven and Stratford submitted a joint proposal to the state Department of Economic and Community Development.

Stamford has already submitted its proposal, while Danbury has prepared a video making a direct pitch to Amazon. Hartford also plans to turn in a proposal to the state.

“We’re taking a regional approach,” said Thomas F. Gill, director of planning and economic development in Bridgeport.

The region boasts universities such as Yale, Southern Connecticut, Fairfield and Sacred Heart. Each of the municipalities also is on the Metro-North rail line.

“A lot went into the thought process,” Gill said.

Amazon, based in Seattle, announced earlier this month it will spend more than $5 billion to build and expand its second headquarters. It will eventually employ 50,000 employees in finance, technology and other high-skill, well-paid jobs.

Joe McGee, vice president for public policy and programs at the Business Council of Fairfield County, said cities and towns must work together to lure Amazon.

“There needs to be a regional strategy,” said McGee, a former state economic development commissioner. “Erase political boundaries and promote your assets.”

The Department of Economic and Community Development set the Tuesday deadline for municipalities to submit proposals. The state agency will compete with numerous other cities and states when it pitches Connecticut to Amazon by the online retailer’s Oct. 19 deadline.

The competition will be intense, with scores of cities, states, provinces and counties in the U.S. and Canada also seeking the headquarters.

Catherine Smith, the state’s economic development commissioner, said she would know by midnight Tuesday how many municipalities stepped forward. 

Best chance to succeed back to top

When submitting the state’s proposal next month, officials will “try to narrow it down to those that have the greatest chance of succeeding,” she said.

The criteria set by Amazon is clear, she said: access to public transportation, 45 minutes to an international airport and other factors.

When deciding among competing proposals — a sensitive job for the Malloy administration, which represents all municipalities — officials will “try to explain how objective we’re going to be,” Smith said.

“There’s not a political bone in our body,” she said.

For its so-called “HQ2,” Amazon said it’s looking for metropolitan areas with more than 1 million people, urban or suburban areas that can attract and keep strong technical workers, and communities that “think big and creatively” when considering sites and real estate options.

Danbury officials will sell their city directly to Amazon in addition to submitting a proposal to the state. The city has posted strong economic and job growth that local officials say they’ll cite in their approach to Amazon.

Mayor Mark Boughton, a Republican interested in running for governor, addressed Amazon in a video on Danbury’s Facebook page.

“I’d like to personally invite Amazon to locate their second global headquarters here in our city,” he said in the video, titled, “Amazon + Danbury.”

He said Danbury’s permit process is fast and efficient and that it’s attractive to global companies that have located to the city.

Thomas Madden, director of economic development in Stamford, said the city has submitted its proposal to state economic development officials.

He said Stamford’s assets include access to airports in New York City and Westchester County, development around Metro-North, a metropolitan region with a population of nearly 2 million and a strong digital media presence among local businesses.

A spokesman for Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said the capital city also plans to submit a bid.

New London officials considered making a proposal, but backed off because the city does not have enough land, Mayor Michael Passero said.

With numerous other business prospects, he said, “we don’t feel we’re missing out.”