Delaware makes its pitch for Amazon HQ2

Delaware has jumped into the bidding war to locate Amazon’s new headquarters in its state—announcing three potential sites for the online shopping giant to expand.

More than 100 cities, states and provinces have put in bids for “HQ2,” which is expected to create 50,000 jobs with an average salary of $100,000.

Among the extravagant sales pitches, a city outside Atlanta offered to carve out 345 acres of land to create a city named “Amazon,” and New Jersey leaders are offering $7 billion in tax incentives.

Despite the competition, which includes nearby Philadelphia, Delaware is hyping its “Small Wonders.”

On Thursday, political leaders County Executive Matt Meyer, D-New Castle, Mayor Mike Purzycki, D-Wilmington, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware, and Gov. John Carney, D-Delaware, announced the state’s proposal.

“Relentless.com was a domain name a guy name Jeff Bezos registered 23 years ago to sell books. Eventually, he talked to some advisers and they said ‘relentless’ is too harsh and they went with Amazon. But I think relentless describes a lot of what Amazon is and how they succeed,” Meyer told the crowd gathered at the Wilmington Riverfront to hear the state’s pitch.

“I think that’s good news for us, because if you look at our history, if you look at what happened on the banks of the Brandywine River back in 1802, when a man named E.I. du Pont from France chose Delaware and chose New Castle County and chose Wilmington. He came with that same relentless spirit—and it’s that same relentless spirit that’s created many of the great inventions of the last century right here in Delaware … things like Teflon and Nylon, inkjet cartridges, Gore, all the innovations of MBNA in the financial services industry. When we look to future of innovation and entrepreneurship we should first look back and realize we had that, and we have that here … I think that’s exactly the leadership of Amazon is about, that’s what they’re looking for.”

Delaware has pitched First State Crossing in Claymont, the Riverfront in Wilmington and an area on Concord Pike in Fairfax, home to AstraZeneca, as potential locations for Amazon to expand from its Seattle headquarters.

The state is touting its proximity to major cities and Philadelphia International Airport, its universities and workforce training programs, beaches and recreation, as well its tax-free shopping and low cost of living.

Amazon requires bidders to offer a location with an initial space of 500,000 square feet and potential of up to 8 million square feet, less than 30 miles from an area with a population of more than 1 million, close to an international airport and major highways and where it’s easy access to mass transit. State officials say Delaware meets all those requirements.

Amazon’s fulfillment center in Delaware is about the size of 28 football fields. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY, file)

Carney said the state must rely on these features, as its financial incentives that remain confidential, won’t add up to some of the other major bidders.

“We’re not going to be able to compete with the big states when it comes to that, we just don’t have the fiscal capacity, we only have a $4 billion budget, which is a small amount compared to other large states and metropolitan areas,” he said.

“But we have a lot of other things to offer. We have to win the day on our cost of living, on our favorable tax and regulatory environment, on the beautiful beaches and quality of life we have, on our location, to the population centers, from New York to DC, all the way up to Boston.”

State officials say not only do they want to attract Amazon, but more businesses in general. Delaware has been looking for a business boom following closures of various manufacturing plants, and the merger of DuPont with Dow.

During the Amazon announcement, a new “Options in Delaware” video campaign was launched.

“It’s not just for Amazon, it’s for our efforts to bring other companies here, to have companies located here expand, to give our neighbors pride in our state,” Carney said. “The exercise for us has been an uplifting one as we celebrate the really good things we have to offer in Delaware.”

Amazon, which is incorporated in Delaware and has fulfillment centers in New Castle and Middletown, will make a selection for HQ2 in 2018. A specific date hasn’t been announced. Carney said despite being a small state, he still has strong hopes for its bid.

“We always have a chance,” he said. “Nobody thought our little gymnast Morgan Hurd had a chance when she won the world championships. Some people thought she didn’t deserve to be on the team, and she won and she was the gold medalist and we celebrate her success, and we’re going to go at it with the same energy and commitment she goes about her work every day.”

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