What’s York County doing to help Charlotte land $5 billion Amazon HQ?
By David Thackman
YORK COUNTY, SC -- If Amazon is the belle of the ball, Charlotte is among the many suitors across the nation looking to dance with her.
And York County may be one of Charlotte’s wingmen trying to bring the two together.
York County economic development staff say they’re working with 15 other counties across the Carolinas to help bring the global tech giant to the area. The Seattle company has said it will spend more than $5 billion over the next 15 years to build a second headquarters in North America with as many as 50,000 jobs.
The average pay for those employees would be more than $100,000 a year, the company said.
The deadline to apply for Amazon.com’s second headquarters location is Oct. 19. More than 100 North American cities have expressed interest, according to the Seattle Times, including possible front-runners like Atlanta, Washington, D.C., and Dallas.
York County economic leaders say they are willing to do whatever they need to support the Charlotte campaign, by text or by tweet. York, Lancaster and Chester counties are part of the Charlotte Regional Partnership consortium, which seeks to attract large business opportunities to the Carolinas.
While Charlotte officials put together the bulk of the application, York County and other counties have acted as the region’s cheerleaders by submitting possible site plans, posting on social media and gathering plenty of statistics and information for the area.
“What’s good for Charlotte would be good for us,” said Caroline Floyd, marketing director with York County Economic Development. “Just like the other 15 counties would want to support us, they’d want us to support them.”
She said that’s because of a “spillover” effect, in which new employees live, work, eat and play in the surrounding communities as much as the base city.
Amazon has said its new headquarters would be a “full equal” to the one in Seattle. The Charlotte Chamber and Charlotte Regional Partnership are organizing the city’s proposal.
So far, the area meets Amazon’s criteria for bidding cities: It’s a metropolitan area with more than a million people, it’s close to Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and a university, and it has mass transit. Amazon says it wants to expand “HQ2” to 8 million square feet at full build-out — the size of nearly 139 football fields.
139 Amazon says it wants to expand its second headquarters, “HQ2,” to 8 million square feet at full buildout — the size of nearly 139 football fields.
Rock Hill and York County economic development officials have provided plenty of data, video and reports on quality of life metrics, according to Rick Norwood with Rock Hill’s economic and urban development staff.
The bidding process is unusually public for a deal of this scale. Typically, economic development talks only happen secretly under non-disclosure agreements.
Most information is still being kept under wraps — York County and Rock Hill could not provide details on which site plans or documents it is submitting to the proposal — but Norwood said a deal with Amazon could be a “game-changer” for the Carolinas.
“We are definitely 100 percent on board with making a run at this,” Norwood said. “Like the rest of North America. Prospects don’t see the state line when they come to Charlotte, but there are different incentives being offered across places. We’re on the same team, but we also compete with each other. That dynamic tension continues to push the growth that takes place.”
It’s that type of competition that might have South Carolina quietly bullish about landing the company. York County has led the nation in annual jobs growth over the past several months, thanks to the massive investment in Fort Mill’s Kingsley Town Center from LPL Financial and the Lash Group.
Earlier this week, cleaning products company Diversey announced plans to move its corporate headquarters from Charlotte to York County, bringing $6.1 million in investment and about 400 jobs.
Experts say Amazon’s public request for submissions is a way to find the best deal of local incentives and tax exemptions. Such deals happen often in York, Lancaster and Chester counties.
York County leaders say they are more than happy to tout the Charlotte region’s benefits, especially if a curious CEO named Jeff Bezos is listening.
Economic developers have launched a new website, CharlotteIsPrime.com, to go along with #CLTisPrime and @CLTisPrime, the hashtag and Twitter handles Charlotte uses to promote the bid.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts declared Oct. 18 #CLTisPrime Day to spearhead a photo and video competition to show Amazon why Charlotte would be the best location for a headquarters.
“For those that have an understanding of economic development from an international, national and regional perspective,” said Floyd, “they would understand the importance of coming together to support the effort because of the benefits and the spillover, the opportunities and the connections.”
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