(Louisville Business First) - Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and members of Louisville Metro Government are ready to put their best hand on the table for the new Amazon HQ2, and they will make the pitch a regional effort.
Mary Ellen Wiederwohl, chief of Louisville Forward, Louisville Metro's economic development agency, said Tuesday morning that the company's formal bid will include state and regional partners in one unified voice.
"I can tell you we will have a strong regional response," Wiederwohl told me Tuesday, responding to questions about Southern Indiana's involvement in the application as part of the Louisville metropolitan statistical area. Namely, the 6,000-acre River Ridge Commerce Center has expressed an interest in offering its surplus of land as a potential site and has lobbied for a partnership with the city.
"This search, initiated by Amazon, is clearly metropolitan-focused," Dustin Coffman, finance and marketing director for River Ridge, said of the project late last week. "As an MSA, this is a great opportunity for us to work in tandem as a community to put our best foot forward. We have so many assets throughout our MSA and are very excited to leverage that toward a successful economic development effort. This would obviously be a great win for all of us."
Formal proposals are due by Oct. 19, and the winning site is expected to be announced next year.
Wiederwohl said Amazon has made it clear it wants only one proposal from each MSA, and that request will be honored with Louisville's bid. She declined to release potential sites in the city that will be offered to Amazon for consideration.
Fischer told reporters Tuesday that he anticipates Louisville will square off with a stiff field of at least 50 other metropolitan cities. But he said the city is ready to compete hard for the project, playing up its strengths in the bid.
The mayor said he recognizes that Louisville has some gaps, but he believes the city can be competitive.
The two big questions are whether the city has the talent base needed to lure Amazon and whether its lack of international flights and nonstop flights to the West Coast could keep it out of the running.
The mayor said some of today's realities are not necessarily permanent challenges as Louisville is working to address both talent attraction and retention and air service. A new nonprofit agency, the Louisville Regional Airlift Development Inc., formed recently to help fund startup flights to cities such as Boston and Los Angeles.
State officials have been reluctant to discuss the project, but Fischer said he wouldn't be surprised if a second Kentucky bid came for Northern Kentucky as part of the Cincinnati MSA.
Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) said on its website in early September that it plans to invest more than $5 billion to build and operate a second headquarters with as many as 50,000 employees. The company said it now has 40,000 employees at its 33-building, 8.1-million-square-foot Seattle campus.
The first phase of the project would entail about 500,000 to 1 million square feet with a $300 million to $600 million investment, according to Amazon's request for proposals. The full $5 billion project would come through several phases over a 15- to 17-year period.
At full build-out, the second Amazon HQ campus could have more than 8 million square feet.
Our parent company, American City Business Journals, published a story earlier today looking at some of the chatter in cities around the country about the second headquarters. While some cities, such as Denver, have been mentioned in national media circles as potential frontrunners, the field for now remains wide open as the deadline looms a month away.
Marty Finley covers economic development, commercial and residential real estate, government and sports business.