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Chicago Officials Head To Seattle To Lure Amazon HQ Back Here

By Heather Cherone | September 18, 2017 4:06pm
 Amazon plans to build a second headquarters outside its Seattle hometown.
Amazon plans to build a second headquarters outside its Seattle hometown.
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CITY HALL — The full-court press to persuade Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to build the tech giant’s second home in Chicago has begun.

A delegation of state and city officials will leave Tuesday to scout the tech giant's Seattle headquarters "to help determine which Chicago area sites would best fit the company's future needs," according to a joint statement from Grant Klinzman, a spokesman for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and Hud Engelhart, Gov. Bruce Rauner's senior communications strategy director.

The delegation is not scheduled to meet with Amazon officials, who announced 10 days ago that the firm plans to build a $5 billion second headquarters that would employ at least 50,000 people.

The 10-member delegation's trip will be paid for with private donations raised by World Business Chicago, Klinzman said.

The organization — which works to spur economic development and create jobs in Chicago — got $1.2 million from the tax the city levies on hotel stays, according to the 2017 city budget. Emanuel is the chairman of the group.

Emanuel said Thursday that state and city officials would join forces in an "all-hands-on-deck approach" to put together a winning proposal and persuade Amazon to pick Chicago over the dozens of cities expected to vie to be the tech giant's second home.

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

However, Rauner said his office would also help St. Louis — across the border in Missouri — to bid for the Amazon headquarters.

"St. Louis is also competing, and we have a major population center in Metro East, we have major strategic transportation advantages in Metro East around the St. Louis area," Rauner said. "St. Louis has some benefits that they bring in terms of their overall package, and we want to make sure Illinois is positioned to be a great benefactor of that. But the home run for us and the real focus is given metro Chicago."

Emanuel said Chicago's "fundamental economic strengths" are exactly what Amazon is looking for, and said he was confident Chicago would emerge victorious.

On Thursday, 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 the high taxes and regulations in Chicago, while Emanuel has said the governor "doesn't get it."

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.

Rauner Monday reinstituted the Economic Development for a Growing Economy program, which offers tax credits to firms that add jobs in Illinois.

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.

The members of the Chicago-Illinois joint delegation are:

• Chicago Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp

• Chicago Deputy Mayor Bob Rivkin

• Illinois Deputy Gov. Leslie Munger

• World Business Chicago Vice Chairman Michael Sacks

• Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker

• Farzin Parang, of Emanuel's economic development office

• Chicago Planning Commissioner David Reifman

• Deputy Planning Commissioner Aarti Kotak

• World Business Chicago CEO Jeff Malehorn

• Intersect Illinois CEO Mark Peterson