State picks Stamford and Hartford for Amazon bid
Updated 7:12 pm, Friday, October 6, 2017
The state has selected the Stamford and Harford areas as locations included in its bid for Amazon’s planned second headquarters, according to a letter sent this week to officials of municipalities bidding on the project.
“After careful analysis by our review team, which included representatives from several state agencies, we have decided to move forward with two sites (in the Stamford region and Hartford region) that we believe meet the very specific project criteria outlined in Amazon’s RFP and subsequent conversations,” Catherine Smith, the state’s economic development commissioner, wrote in the letter, dated Oct. 2.
Department of Economic and Community Development officials reached their decision after receiving 17 site proposals for the new home of the e-commerce giant, a complex that would cover some 8 million square feet and house as many as 50,000 people. Bids are due to the Seattle-based Amazon by Oct. 19.
“My office has heard from many residents who are excited about a potential Amazon second headquarters being in Stamford,” Stamford Mayor David Martin said in a statement. “This is a competitive process, and we are a David among Goliaths. But our city and the region are uniquely positioned to respond back to Amazon, as we have the qualities that Amazon requested in its proposal. Stamford and the state’s package has a bold vision that will be very attractive to Amazon.”
Martin said he had met with other municipalities’ top elected officials to update them on Stamford’s application and discuss how an Amazon headquarters would affect the region.
A message left for Hartford’s economic development office was not immediately returned.
Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said Friday if the state’s definition of the Stamford and Hartford regions did not include his city and New Haven that the latter two areas would still move forward with their proposal.
“The greater Bridgeport and greater New Haven regions are working vigorously on a comprehensive application and very good proposal that will show this is the best place in the world for Amazon to consider its second headquarters,” Ganim said.
Danbury officials had expressed interest in hosting the headquarters. In a video posted last month, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton asked Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant the best place for Amazon’s new complex. Alexa responded that the choice would be Danbury.
A message left Friday for Boughton’s office was not immediately returned.
Areas other than Stamford and Hartford could still support the state’s plan, Smith said in the letter.
“Other assets of your town, for example, the people, education facilities and quality of life, need to be included as crucial ingredients for an overall successful submission from the state,” Smith wrote. “From that perspective, we hope we can count on your support.”
In a speech last week in Stamford, Smith said the state’s application to Amazon would be a “long shot,” but still warranted an effort. She said Connecticut is on Amazon’s radar, with the e-commerce giant operating a distribution center in Windsor and planning to open another one in North Haven. Together, the two complexes would employ about 3,800.
“We have gotten to know some of their real estate people pretty well,” Smith said at the Crowne Plaza hotel. “We’ve had many conversations with them, as recently as two days ago, about this bid. We feel like we understand what they’re looking for.”
Smith described the state’s review process of cities’ and towns’ applications.
“The shortlist will be the ones we think have the greatest opportunity and meet the criteria,” Smith said. “And then we’ll try to evaluate among those how many we think are appropriate to submit.”
Despite public officials’ enthusiasm, Connecticut could not easily amass the office space needed to equal Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, which is spread across 33 buildings.
With an approximately 30 percent office vacancy rate, Stamford could offer about 5 million square feet of available space, according to Newmark Knight Frank’s most recent report.
“The competition here is pretty steep — it’s pretty much every city in the whole United States,” Smith said in the Stamford speech. “It’s been a very good experience for us to work as a state to see how we can find the right opportunities for Amazon to join our state.”
firstname.lastname@example.org; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott