By Erick Johnson, Gary Crusader
Governor Eric Holcomb says the state will partner with all Indiana cities that decide to submit bids for Amazon’s $5 billion HQ2 headquarters, but the governor won’t pick a single city to be the standard bearer for the state, according to Indianapolis radio station WIBC.
The station said the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) will support Gary and Indianapolis in their bids for the Amazon HQ2 headquarters, but questions remain as to what this “support” means and whether Gary will get a fair amount of help for an economically-depressed city that perhaps needs the facility the most. Holcomb is supporting all Indiana cities, but the move may be his way of avoiding the predominately Black city without facing criticism of playing favorites with the state’s white Republican cities.
Several towns and counties in Indiana have said they plan to submit bids for the headquarters. They include, Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Whitestown, Westfield and Boone County. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson recently ran an advertisement in the New York Times, asking Amazon owner and billionaire Jeff Bezos to consider building his second headquarters in her city. Two weeks ago, Amazon put out a nationwide call inviting cities to send proposals by October 19 for a second headquarters to join its Seattle corporate flagship. Since then, New York, Chicago, St. Louis and other major cities have committed to bidding for the headquarters, which would generate an estimated 50,000 jobs, many of them in the technology field. Gary is perhaps the smallest of the cities and faces an uphill battle in landing Amazon. Other cities are either partners with other towns to make impressive regional bids, while other cities are pooling together resources to cook up enticing bids for HQ2. For Gary, it may be competition on an uneven playing field.
It’s unclear how much support Gary is receiving from Holcomb or the IEDC. The Crusader reached out to Holcolmb through his press secretary, Stephanie Wilson, who did not respond to an email seeking comment for this story.
Indianapolis is aggressively pursuing HQ2 with the city of Fishers. The towns are working together to form a regional proposal. They have established the Indy Metro Amazon HQ2 project, an extensive task force headed by six co-chairs who are big name executives and community leaders.
The co-chairs reportedly have been contacted by more than 600 people to provide support and have engaged organizations representing more than 5,000 businesses and individuals throughout the region and state through business groups, nonprofit entities, economic development groups, and elected officials as part of the RFP response. A spokesman for Fishers reportedly said the region would include Carmel, Noblesville and Westfield, as well.
In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner are also making some aggressive moves with an “all hands on deck approach” to lure Amazon’s HQ to the nation’s largest city. In addition to sending a delegation of state and city officials to Amazon’s Seattle head- quarters, the two have tapped United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Loop Capital Chairman and CEO Jim Reynolds and Abbott Chairman and CEO Miles White to chair a 600-member committee formed to support a Amazon bid. Also on the committee are representatives from DuPage, McHenry, Kendall, Kane, Lake and Will counties.
Gary is just 30 miles southeast of Chicago. In her New York Times advertisement, Freeman-Wilson cited Gary’s proximity to Chicago as a selling point. She also cited the city’s airport and proximity to four major highways and Gary’s vast amount of available land.
Holcomb portrays Indiana as a natural partner for the online retail giant, not only for its central location and business-friendly climate, but for what he calls a “pioneering spirit in our D-N-A” that matches up with Amazon’s culture of innovation.
Amazon prefers cities that have a metropolitan population of one million people and an international airport. It also says it needs at least 100 acres to build on, and Amazon needs a mass transit system that’s easily accessible. It has spelled out parameters for the new campus which rule out many cities. Amazon said sites must also have 500,000 square feet of initial space and the ability to expand up to 8 million square feet in 10 years.
According to WIBC, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard says Carmel will play a supporting role in the Indy-Fishers bid, but doesn’t have enough available space to be Amazon’s new home itself. And he says Carmel almost never grants the kind of tax incentives Amazon is seeking. But he says Carmel’s cultural and quality-of-life assets are selling points for the wider region.
Zionsville and Whitestown have also said they’ll join in preparing the central Indiana bid.