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Rochester pitches area as site for Amazon’s second headquarters

Online shopping giant Amazon.com Inc. is looking for a landing spot for its second headquarters, and some community leaders are pitching Rochester as the perfect match.

Amazon this week announced plans to build a second facility, dubbed “Amazon HQ2,” in North America. The company expects to invest more than $5 billion in construction and grow the second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs, officials said in a statement Thursday. Construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create “tens of thousands” of additional jobs and “tens of billions” of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community, according to the statement.

Rochester’s leaders have been pitching the community to Amazon since January.

“On behalf of Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, which represents over 1,300 employers in the nine-county Rochester, New York region, I’m writing to ask you to consider our community as a potential location for the future expansion of Amazon.com’s operations,” Robert Duffy, Chamber president and CEO, wrote in a letter to Amazon President Jeffrey Bezos nearly nine months ago.

In his first letter to Bezos, Duffy wrote that as New York’s third-largest city Rochester has a rich history of entrepreneurship, philanthropy, innovation and business success. Duffy touted the region’s colleges and universities and the stunning Fingers Lakes region.

“Most importantly, the Rochester-Finger Lakes area has a highly educated, skilled and professional workforce with cutting edge packaging experience,” Duffy wrote in the Jan. 31 letter. “Packaging is one of our community’s many strengths, which could be tremendously beneficial to Amazon, a world leader in the delivery of goods.”

Duffy noted his history in the political arena, including his time as mayor of Rochester and lieutenant governor alongside Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He pledged significant assistance from Rochester’s corporate, governmental and educational partners, noting that Cuomo and his economic development team “would be especially supportive if you invested in the upstate region.”

Amazon’s Seattle headquarters employs more than 40,000 individuals and comprises 8.1 million square feet spread across 33 buildings. Its Seattle campus features 24 restaurants and eight other services. The company invested $3.7 billion in buildings and infrastructure, and employee compensation for its Seattle headquarters totals $25.7 billion.

“We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,” Bezos said in a statement. “Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We’re excited to find a second home.”

Amazon officials noted several prerequisites for its new headquarters. The company has a preference for a metro area with more than 1 million people; a region with a stable and business-friendly environment; an urban or suburban location with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent; and a community that thinks big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options.

In a follow-up letter to Bezos sent Thursday, Duffy reiterated Rochester’s assets.

“As you will see, Rochester has an abundance of strengths that completely align with the needs of this project,” Duffy wrote in his most recent letter. “Our region is in the midst of a major economic transformation, and we would enthusiastically welcome Amazon to be a part of it.”

Amazon has opened its Request for Proposal process to state, county and local areas. Proposals are due Oct. 19 and the company expects to announce its decision in 2018.

Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

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