Amazon bid is lesson in cooperation


If practice makes perfect, economic development entities in West Michigan can add another level of experience to their résumés.

The Right Place Inc. recently submitted a proposal for Grand Rapids to be the city to house Amazon’s second headquarters. Even if the region does not win the bid, those involved say the initiative will be beneficial in the long run.

The Grand Rapids-based economic development agency collaborated with many organizations to write the proposal, including Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., the city of Grand Rapids and the Gerald R. Ford International Airport, among others.

No matter what happens, Birgit Klohs, president and CEO of The Right Place, said the collaboration in creating the “complex request” was an important experience.

“The process was a great opportunity to work together, collaborate with teams and partners,” Klohs said. “It helped us really identify our major assets. If we don’t make the cut, then we certainly would be ready and prepared for another project that is of a large magnitude.”

Though Klohs could not disclose exactly what was in the proposal, she said it highlighted demographics, possible buildings and sites, business incentives, workforce capabilities, educational institutions, numbers of students, quality of life and culture, and infrastructure.

Gov. Rick Snyder did not ask lawmakers to create tax incentives specifically for this project, according to Emily Guerrant, senior vice president of marketing and communications at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. But Amazon would be eligible for other incentives already in place, such as the recently passed Good Jobs for Michigan Program and the Michigan Business Development Program grant. The company already has received two of these grants, $5 million for its fulfillment center in Romulus and $7.5 million for its fulfillment center in Livonia.

Amazon received 238 proposals by the Oct. 19 deadline from 43 U.S. states, plus Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, three Mexican states and six Canadian provinces, according to the project’s website.

The chosen city will be announced in 2018, though Amazon has not indicated exactly when or how the process will unfold.

Klohs said submitting the proposal was an accomplishment in itself, but for Grand Rapids to be placed on a list of finalists would be quite the success.

Amazon announced in September that it would accept proposals for the second headquarters site in North America, outlining several preferences that included a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people; close proximity to an international airport, highways, and mass transit; and the ability to grow the site up to 8 million square feet beyond 2027.

This new site will be a “full equal” to the Seattle headquarters, with plans to invest more than $5 billion in construction and bringing up to 50,000 high-paying jobs.

Construction and operation of the new site are expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.

Amazon estimates its investments in Seattle from 2010-16 resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city’s economy.

Guerrant believes Grand Rapids and Detroit, which also submitted a proposal, are both promising candidates for the site.

“We’ve been as supportive as we can on our end, and we think that either one would be a great location for Amazon. We would welcome them to the state with open arms.”

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