Mayor feels Tacoma should compete for second Amazon headquarters
Tacoma boosters say Amazon should look no further than the City of Destiny for its second headquarters.
Landing the tech giant would be a game changer locally, where housing prices have barely bounced back from before the recession.
Amazon would bring a $5 billion campus with up to 50,000 employees and 8 million square feet of office space. High-paying jobs would significantly boost the city’s household income.
The company hopes to open its first office in 2019 — at half a million square feet or more — with the rest coming online in the next decade.
“This is a very unusual and exciting opportunity,” said Bruce Kendall, CEO of the Economic Development Board for Tacoma-Pierce County.
Kendall called Amazon’s search for a second but equal headquarters “gargantuan.”
“That’s unprecedented at least in North America from what I’ve seen in the past,” he said.
The online retail giant’s asks include a business-friendly environment, the ability to attract and retain talent and a shovel-ready site.
▪ Be near a major international airport. Tacoma is 25 miles from Sea-Tac Airport.
▪ Less than two miles from major highways? Interstate 5 goes through the city.
▪ Access to mass transit. The Tacoma Link light rail runs through the heart of downtown, from the Tacoma Dome and soon through the Stadium District and Hilltop neighborhoods.
“There is nothing they are asking for that we can’t deliver — and we can over deliver on what they are looking for, so yeah, we’re going to be in the game,” Kendall said. “We could meet all of their core preferences, and very well on more than one site.”
Empty parcels are scattered throughout Tacoma’s downtown. Now serving as parking lots, one day they could become sites for 400-foot-high office towers.
The company is also asking for incentives that states can offer it for a chance at the headquarters, dubbed HQ2.
“Places like Texas and Pennsylvania will throw everything but the kitchen sink at them,” said Ricardo Noguera, community and economic development director for the City of Tacoma. “But they know they have a successful track record in Seattle.”
While Tacoma may not compete with other states for incentives, as Amazon is requesting, it can compete with a qualified workforce, said Joseph Williams, the governor’s lead on tech industry recruitment.
“What we have that they don’t is an amazing workforce,” Williams said. “Tacoma has a great workforce, it just goes north.”
And Tacoma is ready for an influx of workers, said Josh Brown, executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council.
Tacoma and other cities in the region have planned for population increases through the state’s Growth Management Act, Brown said. Since 2000, Tacoma has added 2,400 jobs — and it has room for 80,000 more through 2040.
The South Sound and Tacoma specifically has had a slower recovery from the recession than Seattle, he said.
“It would actually be a really good thing in terms of balancing growth throughout our region so that we don’t have all of our job centers in just one spot,” Brown said.
With those new jobs, developers would have to build more housing. While thousands more apartment units are planned for Pierce County through 2019, not enough housing units are being built for the current demand. If Amazon were to locate here, it could create a housing bonanza.
If Amazon were to move to Tacoma, “I think it would be spectacular,” said Kevin Mullin, owner-partner and designated broker of Windermere Professional Partners in Tacoma.
“I think we have everything Seattle has only it’s a bit more intimate and we can give you a bit more individual attention,” he said.
City officials and economic development professionals met Monday to talk about the Amazon opportunity. It’s an early step in what is likely to be an exhausting month-long process of getting sign-offs from major community leaders, legislators, the governor and more, if past efforts are any indication.
Applications are due to Amazon on Oct. 19.