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10/18/2017 6:54:00 PM
Louisville metro area submits 'strong' application for Amazon headquarters
The River Ridge business and industrial park in Jeffersonville and Charlestown has thousands of developable acreage to help lure a large headquarters like Amazon to the region. Staff file photo
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The River Ridge business and industrial park in Jeffersonville and Charlestown has thousands of developable acreage to help lure a large headquarters like Amazon to the region. Staff file photo

Danielle Grady, News and Tribune

Chambers of commerce and the City of Louisville have been working “very, very hard” on the metropolitan area’s application for Amazon’s second headquarters, ahead of Thursday's deadline to submit proposals, according to Alison Brotzge-Elder, the communications and public relations director for Greater Louisville Inc.

“I definitely think it will be a very strong application,” she said. “We have a great case to be made for the region.”

Louisville Forward, the City of Louisville's economic arm, and Greater Louisville Inc. today confirmed in a written statement that the local application had reached Amazon's Seattle headquarters, according to WAVE 3 News, news gathering partner of the News and Tribune. 

Since Amazon announced in September that it would be spending $5 billion on a second headquarters in North America, over 100 cities have pledged to pursue the opportunity, which would eventually bring 50,000 high-paying jobs to one area.

To be considered, a metropolitan area must submit an application that includes: a potential site or sites for the headquarters, a list of incentives, including tax credits to be offered to Amazon and information on various aspects of the area, ranging from its higher education partnerships to its quality-of-life amenities and housing options.

The City of Louisville announced on Sept. 18 that it would be employing Louisville Forward to make a bid for the headquarters, also called HQ2. The city’s efforts have involved both Louisville’s and Clark and Floyd counties’ chambers of commerce: GLI and One Southern Indiana.

The bid for HQ2 is a “regional effort,” Brotzge-Elder said, involving counties in both Kentucky and Southern Indiana

Louisville Forward isn’t commenting on what it’s included in its Amazon application, but some of the organizations involved in the process shed light on it contents anyway.

River Ridge Commerce Center revealed on Sept. 21 that it was working with the City of Louisville on the application. The business and industrial park in Jeffersonville and Charlestown has thousands of developable acres for a large headquarters.

No other potential site for HQ2 has been revealed, but Jose Fernandez, an associate professor of economics at the University of Louisville, mentioned in a previous interview with the News and Tribune that Jeffersontown or Oldham County could be potential areas for Amazon.

Fernandez didn’t believe that downtown Louisville would be a good spot for HQ2, saying that the city couldn’t “adapt fast enough” for it to be an option.

As for incentives, the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development both said they supported the Louisville area’s efforts to attract Amazon, but did not elaborate on how involved they were with the application process. The two organizations often provide tax credits to businesses locating to their respective states.

If they are offering anything, it’s likely to be big.

Jacob Vigdor, a professor of public policy and governance at the University of Seattle, said that Amazon has a reputation for driving a “hard bargain” when it comes to incentives.

Other places across the country are offering massive tax credits for HQ2. New Jersey has said it will provide $7 billion in tax breaks for the headquarters, while Memphis is offering $60 million in incentives.

Eric Schanesberg, an associate professor of economics at Indiana University Southeast, said that even the most drastic incentives won’t ensure that Amazon chooses the Louisville area.

“I think the much larger issue is do we have the sort of labor force that fits in and then do we deal with the infrastructure,” he said. “Tax breaks, really compared to that are going to be probably a modest consideration.”

In a previous interview, Uric Dufrene, Indiana University Southeast’s Sanders Chair in Business, said that several things will make it “very tough” for the Louisville area to be chosen by Amazon. The region doesn’t have that many more people than one million — one of Amazon’s requirements for HQ2. Dufrene also fears that there aren’t enough technologically skilled workers in the area for the company.

HQ2 supporters have countered that, saying that the area’s technology sector is growing and that people would move from far away to work for the company and its $100,000 average yearly salary.

Organizations ranking the cities pursuing HQ2 on how likely Amazon is to choose them haven’t been placing Louisville near the top, however.

In an early-on New York Times’ assessment, the metropolitan area was eliminated in its second round. A more recent report from Moody’s Analytics revealing its top 10 picks for Amazon did not list Louisville at all, instead favoring Austin, Texas and Atlanta, among other cities.

Brotzge-Elder is tired of hearing the people of Louisville say they’re not good enough for Amazon.

“You have to go for it,” she said. “Yes, it’s a big ask. It’s a huge, huge ask. However, we have to put ourselves out there because that’s the only way we’re going to move our region and our economy forward.”

The Louisville area does meet the basic criteria for HQ2: It contains a site with 8 million square feet worth of expandable space and it’s near an international airport. Thus, the Louisville area is putting its “best foot forward” in its Amazon application, Brotzge-Elder said.

The region will find out in 2018 whether it worked.

Related Stories:
• Gary, Hammond, Northwest Indiana make bids for Amazon's second headquarters, up to 50,000 jobs
• Indianapolis, Fishers hush-hush about Amazon HQ2 bid
• University of Washington professor: Cities should think carefully about Amazon
• Northwest Indiana launches Amazon bid teams
• River Ridge partnering with Louisville on Amazon HQ2 application
• Louisville doesn't place in latest unofficial Amazon HQ2 ranking; Indianapolis 34th

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