Both of Baltimore’s Amazon HQ2 Bids Eliminated from Contention

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An Amazon Go retail location in Seattle. Photo by SounderBruce, via Wikimedia Commons.

For better or worse, Baltimore won’t be home to Amazon’s second North American headquarters.

In a map and list published Thursday morning, the Seattle-based global retail giant narrowed the contenders to 20 cities, counties or regions. Washington D.C., Montgomery County and Northern Virginia all made the cut, but Baltimore did not.

Baltimore and state officials worked with developers to submit a pitch for the company to come to Port Covington, while another group, the Old Goucher Community Association, entered an independent bid touting several sites in the middle of the city as solid options for a $5 billion, 50,000-employee, 8-million-square-foot secondary headquarters. The city and Sagamore kept theirs under wraps, though sources revealed to The Sun that the bid offered “billions” in incentives that would have been spread out over the next decade.

“Obviously we’re disappointed,” said Sagamore Development president Marc Weller in a statement. “Baltimore is an amazing city, with second-to-none talent, that sits at the epicenter of innovation, education and commerce. The collective work of the City, State, community and business leaders on the Amazon HQ2 bid will undoubtedly help our City attract future businesses and commercial capital, and the Port Covington Development Team never slows in our efforts to bring new investment to Baltimore. We’re optimistic and keeping our eye on building for the future.”

Kelly Cross, president of the Old Goucher Community Association, which shared details from its bid with Baltimore Fishbowl, said Thursday morning that the decision doesn’t mean the center of Baltimore is any less viable for drawing new business.

“I don’t see anything having changed about the argument that we made about neighborhood,” Cross said. “All of those attributes are still here – world-class institutions, transit proximity – all those things still exist here in our neighborhood. There’s no reason that we can’t land 100 smaller businesses with 500 people apiece and get to those same numbers. That’s where we really need to be focused in the city.”

The association had pitched low-cost real estate, multiple light rail and Metro stops and bus lines, and the middle of the city’s proximity to MICA, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Baltimore, among other perks. The bid mentioned State Center and the aged correctional complex as possible sites for the Amazon campus.

Baltimore is in good company in getting knocked out of the top 20. Amazon said in its announcement that it received 238 bids across North America. Other rejected Maryland locales include Howard and Prince George’s counties.

The Seattle-based firm is seeking a metro area with more than 1 million people, a stable and business-friendly environment, strong tech recruiting potential, robust public transit infrastructure, proximity to universities and relatively cheap commercial real estate.

Fortunately for those excited about the prospect of high-paying tech jobs, Montgomery County, D.C. and Northern Virginia are all fairly close. Per Bethesda Magazine, the county bordering D.C. promoted its urban environs, parks, schools, educated workforce, transportation network and internet connectivity as draw factors in its bid (which was shared only with large sections redacted).

D.C. touted the Anacostia Waterfront, NoMa, Union Station, Capitol Hill East and Shaw as potential sites in a public marketing campaign, but has otherwise kept bid details concealed, according to WAMU.

Northern Virginia has fielded Arlington as a potential site, but has similarly not disclosed key details about incentives for the company, Northern Virginia Magazine reported in November. Amazon had asked companies to keep their bids secret in its request for proposals.

Mayor Catherine Pugh said in a statement that she’s “disappointed” about Baltimore being eliminated, but undeterred from seeking to draw new enterprise to the city.

“In no way will Amazon’s decision slow our pursuit of a strong growth agenda for Baltimore, as we work to attract new investment, quality job opportunities, and importantly, new residents to a city celebrated for its diversity, and its rich higher educational, athletic, cultural, medical, and maritime assets,” she said. “Baltimore is a great city and we will not let up in all that we’re doing to realize our full potential.”

At a press conference, Pugh denied that Baltimore’s violence was a deterrent to Amazon, noting that other cities that made the cut have similar issues. “If you take a look at the list, there are cities on that list that have comparable crime rates.”

The governor’s office is still working hard to lure Amazon to Maryland. Gov. Larry Hogan celebrated Montgomery County’s selection in a statement, calling it tremendous news for Montgomery County, our entire state, and further proof that Maryland is truly open for business.”

He said the state’s incentive package for Amazon totals “more than $5 billion, including road and transit improvements.” Hogan has reportedly included $10 million in his proposed fiscal 2019 budget to lure the company to Maryland.

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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