Boston area stakes Amazon HQ pitch on technology talent
BOSTON — In the high-stakes contest to land Amazon's new headquarters, many consider Boston to be a serious contender competing against other big technology hubs around the United States and Canada.
But it's also competing against its neighbors: Several smaller Massachusetts cities — along with Rhode Island and southern New Hampshire — are each submitting their own pitches to Amazon, using proximity to Boston's tech talent as a major draw.
"Talent really is the unquestionable, huge priority," said Brian Dacey, president of the Cambridge Innovation Center and a former Boston economic development director who says the region could make a strong case for luring the Seattle e-commerce company. Local research strengths — such as in artificial intelligence and robotics — are important to Amazon's business model, he said.
The Seattle company is promising $5 billion of investment and 50,000 jobs in whichever North American region it chooses to build a second headquarters. Applications are due Thursday and will come from dozens of U.S. states and Canadian provinces .
Amazon asked state and regional leaders to coordinate no more than one bid from any metropolitan area, but that hasn't stopped multiple cities in greater Boston from making rival bids. There are two alone from northeast Massachusetts' Merrimack Valley — one from a cluster of municipalities in greater Lawrence and another from greater Lowell.
New Bedford also is applying, touting itself as "the inspiring place from which Herman Melville's novel 'Moby Dick' began." Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella is pitching his city as "the hidden jewel" while also dismissing the attractiveness of a Boston campus, saying Amazon "can't afford to be anywhere where their employees are fatigued and tired by the time they reach work in the morning." Worcester is offering up to $500 million in tax breaks and sending Amazon a promotional video .
It's not clear whether this flood of applications from so many New England cities will help or hurt the region's chances.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker is coordinating a statewide pitch expected to highlight a handful of locations deemed the most competitive, but the Republican said last week he also will "give folks who are bidding locally or regionally an opportunity to put a compendium on the back of our bid."
The state hasn't disclosed its preferred locations or how much it's willing to offer Amazon in business incentives, citing competitiveness.
Top real estate offerings pushed by developers include Suffolk Downs, the former horse racing track at Boston's border with Revere, or the Union Point development at the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station. Others are advocating for more urban locations, such as Boston's Seaport District, where Amazon is already planning to open a 900-worker office next year to advance its Alexa virtual assistant.
Rhode Island and New Hampshire also are making pitches, promising Amazon a way of tapping into Boston's high-tech aura while avoiding its congestion and high prices. Rhode Island is touting its universities, cultural amenities and train connections to Boston, while New Hampshire says it doesn't need financial gimmicks to make its case.
New Hampshire leaders on Wednesday announced a proposal centered in the town of Londonderry. "Everyone else is still trying to play catch up to this tax incentive we created in 1789 — no sales tax and no income tax," said Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican.
Sununu said that "obviously the Boston region is a great place to go, but if you're going to be there, be in tax-free New Hampshire. It's all the benefits without the headaches."
Associated Press writers Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, and Jennifer McDermott in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.
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