Kansas City angling for second Amazon headquarters

By Paul Thompson
Northeast News

Kansas City is hoping it can be a prime contender for Amazon’s second national headquarters.

The search for Amazon HQ2’s home city, announced by the Seattle-based behemoth on September 7, left cities throughout North America scrambling to establish their credentials for the $5 billion project. Kansas City was no exception.

On the same day of Amazon’s announcement, the City of Kansas City, Missouri issued a press release stating its intention to submit a bid for HQ2, which could bring with it as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.

“Kansas City has a great workforce and an excellent cost of living that would be attractive to any national company,” said City Manager Troy Schulte in the release. “Add in our tech and Smart City infrastructure, plus jazz, fountains, BBQ and a thriving creative scene, and we think Amazon will take a good look at KC.”

The press release also indicated that Schulte has already directed City staff to begin gathering partners to help create a competitive bid for Amazon’s HQ2. Along with the initial press release, Amazon simultaneously released a Request for Proposal inviting state and local government leaders to bid on the project. The first phase of the RFP process will be open until October 19, 2017.

Within the RFP document, Amazon indicated a preference to work with creative, business-friendly metropolitan areas with more than one million residents. The RFP also calls for access to mass transit at the HQ2 site, with access to highways or major arterials no more than 1-2 miles away. A benefit to Kansas City’s bid could be the city’s fiber network; the Amazon RFP explicitly states that “Ensuring optimal fiber connectivity is paramount at our HQ2 location,” and asks that all interested cities demonstrate the fiber connectivity in their bid for all submitted sites.

KCMO Communications Director Chris Hernandez said that the decision to enter the Amazon bidding was a no-brainer for Kansas City.

“I think basically as soon as everyone saw the announcement by Amazon, it’s pretty clear that Kansas City should be a strong contender for this,” Hernandez said. “Obviously it’s going to be a strong competition. I just think that given the first burst of information about this process, Kansas City has a lot of what they’re looking for.”

First District Kansas City Councilman Scott Wagner indicated on Friday, September 8 that area residents were already getting excited about the prospect of luring Amazon to Kansas City.

“Interestingly, I had a couple of constituents who had sent something to me saying that we should go for this,” Wagner said. “Clearly, there was some excitement out there in the community. The question became, ‘why not us?’”

Wagner met that question with equal enthusiasm.

“It just seemed natural that we attempt to go for it,” he said. “I think we’ve got a lot of assets that we bring that should be really attractive.”

Interestingly, the Amazon announcement and RFP release coincides with the City’s push for a new single terminal at Kansas City International Airport. On Wednesday, September 6, the City’s Procurement Selection Committee officially recommended Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate LLC to lead construction efforts of the single terminal, assuming the plan is approved by taxpayers in the November 7, 2017 election. The KCMO City Council unanimously approved that single terminal ballot language in a ‘unity vote’ on Thursday, August 24.

Wagner suggested that a new single terminal KCI could be an influential aspect of Kansas City’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2.

“Whether it is Amazon or anybody else, when you are trying to attract a business to come to Kansas City, especially when its a multi-national firm, how easy you can get from point A to point B through an airport is important,” Wagner said. “It would certainly be my expectation that a company like Amazon – and they can go anywhere – will try to figure out the movement of their people. The airport will play a part in that.”

Still, Wagner said that he intends to support a new airport with or without Amazon HQ2.

“We actually did put this on the ballot two weeks ago,” Wagner said. “People were going to vote on a new terminal before Amazon made an announcement.”

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