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AMAZON UPDATES: Indy officials pushed three sites for HQ2, showed off Mass Ave during visit

November 13, 2018

Note: Throughout the day, IBJ is continually updating its coverage of Amazon's HQ2 decision. To see the original story, click here.

12:56 p.m. How did Nashville beat Indy for logistics hub?

News on Tuesday that Amazon would create an operations hub in Nashville, Tennessee, as an outgrowth of the firm's HQ2 selection process surprised economic development experts in Indianapolis, which has a similar reputation as a center for transportation and logistics in the eastern third of the United States.

“They never talked about any other project besides the HQ2 process,” said Larry Gigerich, executive managing director at local site selection firm Ginovus Inc., who was part of the Indianapolis bid team.

Read the details in this story from Hayleigh Colombo.

11:39 a.m.: Details on Amazon's Indianapolis visit

New light has been shed on Amazon’s under-wraps visit to Indianapolis earlier this year as part of its economic development intelligence gathering for its HQ2 project.

IBJ previously reported that Amazon officials came to Indianapolis the week of March 19, the same week officials visited Chicago for two days.

Larry Gigerich, executive managing director at local site selection firm Ginovus Inc., who was part of the bid team, said about 15 Amazon officials—but not CEO Jeff Bezos—came to Indianapolis as part of the visit, which lasted about 24 hours over two days.

“They came in one afternoon and left the following late afternoon,” he said.

The visit was mostly business, Gigerich said, “meeting after meeting after meeting, going over talent and real estate.”

Indy officials showed Amazon three main sites: the former Indianapolis International Airport terminal site eventually chosen by Infosys for the location of its new tech-training campus; the former GM stamping plant site on the western outskirts of downtown; and a suite of properties on downtown's east side.

“It was a collective of different properties, going from the City-County Building area all the way to the former Angie’s List campus,” Gigerich said. “I think that was a really interesting, compelling idea.”

"There’s no question they were impressed with the sites," he said.

There also was some time for Amazon officials to eat and visit cultural landmarks around the city.

Bid officials took Amazon staff to Vida, an upscale American restaurant at 601 E. New York St., for dinner. And they had lunch at Livery, a Latin American restaurant at 720 N. College Ave. The latter is on the southern outskirts of the Mass Ave cultural district, and Vida is only a few blocks away on the border of Lockerbie Square. Both are owned and operated by Indianapolis-based Cunningham Restaurant Group.

“A few members of the team broke off later in their second day to look at some of the neighborhoods,” Gigerich said. “Not surprisingly, Mass Ave, Fountain Square, things you would typically think of.”

And bid officials took some Amazon officials to Speedway to see the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“Being able to see that in person, that was something they liked.”


11:01 a.m.: Indianapolis' 'HQ2 Bid Highlight Reel'

Indy Chamber has released what it called an “HQ2 Bid Highlight Reel,” which includes scenes of Indianapolis with executives from companies big and small talking about the city.

The video was part of the material that Indianapolis bid officials gave to Amazon to press the city's case for hosting the HQ2 project.
 

 


On the video, M.T. Ray, the senior vice president for global human resources at Cheetah Digital, said that, “I think once people come, they want to stay.” Ray credited Salesforce’s acquisition of ExactTarget as the moment that “put the stamp down” that the city was a tech force.
 
Ben Pippenger, the vice president of product and engineering at Zylo, says on the video that tech firm has been able to hire “really top tier talent across the board, from engineering to customer success to sales folks and I attribute a lot of that to Indianapolis and really helping us foster a culture and environment where people want to live here, they want to be here, they want to make an impact on the community.
 
And Wendy Stein, general manager of Roche Diagnostics Operations, said the people the company brings to the city from across the globe love it. “they love the downtown, they love the family experience, they love the energy of Indianapolis.
 
Others describe Indianapolis as a “big, small town” and a “cosmopolitan European city” in the Midwest that is focused on helping businesses grow.

In addition, Indy Chamber released a video narrated by Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett extolling the virtues of the city with high-end footage.

 


10:55 a.m.: Bid leader says region presented 'killer proposal'

The leader of Indianapolis’ bid to attract Amazon’s HQ2 said Tuesday morning that the central Indiana region put together a “killer proposal," even though the city was not chosen by the tech behemoth.
 
Maureen Krauss, chief economic development officer for the Indy Chamber, said the region “put together an amazing proposal that resonated with them that got us to the Top 20, and we’re very proud of that.”
 
Krauss, who said Amazon informed them at 9:59 a.m. Tuesday that they were not chosen, said the Indianapolis region does not directly compete against New York or Washington, D.C.—two cities far outranking Indianapolis in terms of size.
 
“We all know the customer is allowed to change their mind, and obviously they did,” Krauss said. “It’s two different types of communities and types of regions. If they decided they needed a much larger region, that was beyond our control.”
 
The group is still being tight-lipped on how much it offered Amazon in incentives.
 
“That remains under wraps,” Krauss said. “It was nothing like the big packages you heard but because it was never financially negotiated, I can’t say what it was. It was nothing different than what’s under existing state policy. It was nothing out of the ordinary.”
 
Krauss said Amazon officials complimented Indianapolis on “our talent pipeline, our sense of community and our ability to work together to solve problems and look to the future.”
 
But, she said, “they didn’t really articulate” any shortcomings the area had.
 
Was the process worth it? Krauss said yes.
 
“We were able to put together a regional story,” she said. “That gives us a launching pad to go out and tell the rest of the world our story. We’re in a really great position right now.”

(See related story: Amazon targets big talent pools over smaller markets with split-HQ decision)
 

10:15 a.m.: It's official: Amazon chooses New York City, D.C. sites for HQ2, with Nashville component

After more than a year of entertaining the prospect that it could host a game-changing corporate headquarters facility for Amazon, Indianapolis learned Tuesday morning that it had lost to three other finalists.

The internet giant announced that it has selected New York City and Arlington, Virginia, as dual locations for the headquarters project that had been dubbed HQ2, promising $5 billion in investment and 50,000 jobs to be split between the two locations.

Amazon also said it had selected Nashville, Tennessee, for a so-called Center of Excellence for its operations business, responsible for the company’s customer fulfillment, transportation, supply chain, and other similar activities.

The new Washington, D.C., metro headquarters in Arlington will be located in National Landing, and the New York City headquarters will be located in the Long Island City neighborhood in Queens. Hiring at both the new headquarters will begin in 2019. The Operations Center of Excellence will be located in downtown Nashville as part of a new development site just north of the Gulch, and hiring will also begin in 2019.

That Indianapolis lost out on the project was not a surprise. Recent reporting in the national press indicated that New York City and the Washington, D.C., area would share the HQ2 project.

Mayor Joe Hogsett on Tuesday trumpeted the coordinated effort between city, state and business leaders in producing a bid for the project that ranked the Indianapolis area among Amazon's 20 finalists, announced in January.

"Leaders from across central Indiana have come together to demonstrate the vibrancy and strength of our region’s economic ecosystem. From our talent pipeline, to our proven track record of private-public partnerships, from our culture of innovation, to our collaborative spirit–Indianapolis rose to the top of Amazon’s search process because this is a place companies want to do business and the workforce of the future wants to live, work, and play," Hogsett said in a prepared media statement.

The surprise on Tuesday was the addition of Nashville to the mix. Amazon said it could create as many as 5,000 full-time jobs and invest more than $230 million in a 1-million-square-foot, energy-efficient office space.

Nashville's success could sting for Indianapolis, which has a strong reputation as a logistics and transportation hub. And Amazon maintains several fulfillment centers in the Indianapolis area.

Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness said he believed the Indianapolis region “put our best foot forward.” But, he said, a critical look at Indianapolis’ assets and shortcomings is needed if the region wants to land the next big economic development deal.

“We should not waste this opportunity to look critically at our region to identify how we can get better and we do need to get better in a lot of ways,” Fadness said. “We need to aspire to bigger ideas and a bigger vision, we need to create better spaces and places, and we need to invest in our people.”

Fadness said he thought the biggest thing the Indianapolis area lacked was an answer to meeting Amazon’s huge workforce development needs—“Just the sheer number of people to meet the needs of the company.”

The decision ends intense competition between North American cities to win Amazon and its promise of 50,000 new jobs. Some locations tried to stand out with stunts, but Amazon made clear that it really wanted incentives, like tax breaks and grants. The company received 238 proposals before narrowing the list to 20 in January.

Amazon is referring to the two new locations as headquarters even though with 25,000 jobs each, they would have fewer workers than its Seattle hometown that houses more than 40,000 employees. Amazon said Seattle will remain as one of Amazon's three headquarters.

The extra space will help the rapidly growing company. Launched in 1995 as an online bookstore, Amazon now produces movies, makes voice-activated Echo devices, runs the Whole Foods grocery chain, offers online services to businesses and designs its own brands of furniture, clothing and diapers.

There were early signs that Amazon had its sights set on New York and northern Virginia. Among its 20 finalists, the company had selected two locations in the New York metro area and three in the D.C. area.

Being near the nation's capital could help Amazon with lobbying efforts as the company, and other fast-growing tech giants, face rising scrutiny from politicians. Plus, CEO and founder Jeff Bezos has a home in Washington D.C., and he personally owns The Washington Post.

Amazon's workforce has ballooned to more than 610,000 worldwide, and that's expected to increase as it builds more warehouses across the country to keep up with online orders. The company recently announced that it would pay all its workers at least $15 an hour, but the employees at its second headquarters will be paid a lot more.

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