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Luring Amazon To Chicago Will Include A Full-Court Press From Rahm Emanuel

By Heather Cherone | September 14, 2017 2:03pm | Updated on September 15, 2017 11:49am
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel opened the Chicago Architecture Biennial Thursday at the Chicago Cultural Center, and said afterward he was
Mayor Rahm Emanuel opened the Chicago Architecture Biennial Thursday at the Chicago Cultural Center, and said afterward he was "intimately involved" in trying to persuade Amazon to pick Chicago for its new headquarters.
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DNAinfo/Heather Cherone

DOWNTOWN — Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Thursday he would be "intimately involved" in the effort to persuade Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to build the tech giant’s second home in Chicago.

In his first remarks after Amazon announced it plans to build a $5 billion second headquarters that would employ at least 50,000 people, Emanuel said Chicago's "fundamental economic strengths" are exactly what Amazon is looking for.

A day after returning from a nearly weeklong trip to Israel, Emanuel said city officials would join state and county leaders in an "all-hands-on-deck approach" to put together a winning proposal for Amazon.

"Every one is going to be pulling in the same direction," Emanuel said.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, who is traveling in Japan and China, told WBEZ that he personally reached out to Amazon executives in an effort to pitch Chicago as their new home.

Chicago has the "talent, transportation, training, technology" that Amazon is looking for, Emanuel said.

Emanuel again touted Chicago's status as the No. 1 city in the country for corporate relocations for the fourth year in a row, as determined by Site Selection magazine.

However, Emanuel declined to endorse a specific location in the city for the headquarters, saying he would not "play favorites" among different locations, including the former Finkl Steel factory on the north branch of the Chicago River.

An eight-page request for proposals posted online said the firm expects to be offered incentives to offset building and operating costs. Those incentives "will be significant factors in the decision-making process," according to the proposal.

Emanuel declined to discuss what incentives Amazon would be offered to pick Chicago.

"It is very clear that Chicago fits the bill," Emanuel said, adding that the city could offer Amazon a large campus — or a skyscraper Downtown. "I'm very encouraged by the enthusiasm from people of all walks of life ... who have embraced this and want to part of the team and a citywide and statewide effort."

Emanuel declined to directly answer a question about whether it would be difficult to work with Rauner, whom he frequently has been at odds with. With the state billions of dollars in debt, Rauner has criticized Chicago as a bastion of corruption where residents are overtaxed and overregulated.

"We are going to focus on our strengths," Emanuel said, adding that Amazons's leaders are "looking for a new headquarters that embraces who and what they want to be."

Amazon will also favor a city with a "highly educated workforce and a stable and business-friendly environment," according to the proposal, which also asks for at least 500,000 square feet of space in an existing building, with the possibility of expanding to include 8 million square feet.

Plans for a newly constructed headquarters should be on parcels of at least 100 acres, according to the proposal.

The deadline for proposals is Oct. 19. Company officials said they expect to make a decision next year and start construction in 2019.