Sometimes turning in an application is a big deal, especially when it involves lots of money, jobs and tax breaks.
Mayor Catherine Pugh and top brass from Sagamore Development and the Baltimore Development Corporation held a press conference this morning at City Garage in Port Covington to celebrate the fact that they’ve officially applied to be the site of Amazon’s second North American headquarters.
Amazon announced in early September that it’s seeking a second location for corporate offices in North America to go with its existing campus in Seattle. The announcement came with an open application process for cities and considerable spoils promised to the winner: 50,000 jobs and more than $5 billion in construction investment.
Along with leaders in dozens of other cities, Baltimore officials bent over backward almost immediately. Pugh and BDC president Bill Cole released a statement promising they’d “pursue this opportunity aggressively.” Sagamore Development, which is building up Port Covington in South Baltimore with Under Armour as the anchor tenant, offered its full support for Pugh’s pitch and touted the economic benefits of Amazon cozying up there.
Gov. Larry Hogan and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz even found common ground on the matter, agreeing Port Covington would be a great spot for Amazon in Maryland.
There are some problems, though, the biggest one being that analysts say Baltimore isn’t really a top contender. The New York Times’ analysis cut Baltimore out for lacking strong job growth; Moody’s Analytics’ model didn’t include Charm City in its top 10; investor and Bloomberg contributor Conor Sen narrowed a list down to seven that left in nearby Washington D.C., but not Baltimore.
Amazon has said it wants the home city for HQ2 to have a metro area holding more than 1 million people, a stable and business-friendly environment, strong technical talent recruiting potential and, in their words, “communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options.” It also wants robust public transit infrastructure and relatively cheap commercial real estate prices.
Baltimore leaders have put in “hundreds of hours” on their application, according to a report from The Baltimore Sun, even getting Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland involved with the research. The details of their pitch will remain private, as Amazon has requested, but it’s a certainty that it includes tax breaks at the state level.
Of course, there’s always the argument that extending such perks to a global company carries risks. Many are still wary that poor, black Baltimore communities won’t see the economic boons of Port Covington when it’s fully built, never mind whether Amazon joins in, too. For those who want Baltimore to benefit directly, there’s also the possibility that those 50,000 jobs will serve non-city dwellers, leaving the city on the hook via tax breaks for a deal that sends money out to the counties or D.C. commuters.
Amazon will announce its pick sometime in 2018, according to its request for proposals application. For now, leaders will celebrate the fact that they’ve at least made a thorough pitch.