Governors, mayors, and economic development officers around the country have tried various creative ways of wooing Amazon to build its $5 billion headquarters in their states. Amazon said it has received 238 proposals so far. New York state and New York City sent emails to CEO Jeff Bezos that went unanswered. (“Seems like a good place to test out that robot stuff you’re planning!” wrote mayor Bill DeBlasio.) Tuscon, Arazona, offered to send them a giant saguaro cactus, which Amazon rejected. On October 16, Chris Christie offered Amazon something more enticing than a cactus: $7 billion in tax incentives. He also officially backed Newark as the site in New Jersey for a new Amazon HQ.
But that hasn’t stopped other municipalities from striking out on their own to offer locations to the giant Internet company, which plans to have as many as 50,000 people work in its second headquarters. Its current headquarters, in downtown Seattle, employs 40,000 people and includes wild architectural features such as a dome-shaped arboretum in the city’s downtown.
Trenton and West Windsor were undaunted by Christie’s embrace of Newark’s proposal, which ticks off some of the items on Amazon’s requests for proposals: It is near a major urban center and has its own major airport and good highway access.
Officials in West Windsor (population 27,165) have offered two sites: the former American Cyanamid property on Route 1 and the former SRI/Sarnoff campus. The Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce has thrown its support behind this plan, as have the landowners of both campuses. The Howard Hughes corporation is currently planning a mixed-use residential-commercial development at the American Cyanamid site.
In a letter to Amazon, West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh promoted the area’s highly educated populace, access to the Northeast Corridor rail line via the Princeton Junction train station, and housing stock available in West Windsor.
Mercer County has backed the application of Trenton (population 84,056). George Sowa, CEO of the Greater Trenton organization, said in a statement that Trenton’s plan included five interconnected campuses; a transportation and pedestrian network; as well as green space and recreation.
Trenton mayor Eric Jackson said Trenton was a competitive location for Amazon’s second headquarters.
“From properties to mass transit to access to recreational opportunities and the ability to employ our existing residents and to attract a talented workforce, our feeling is that the capital city has tremendous assets that fulfill Amazon’s requirements for a second corporate headquarters,” he said.
“Mercer County has the perfect mix of proximity to large metropolitan areas, mass transit, a diverse, well-educated workforce, and access to numerous cultural and recreational resources that ensure a great quality of life,” wrote County Executive Brian Hughes.
Princeton University president Christopher Eisgruber appealed directly to Bezos, who is a fellow Princeton alumnus, to build “HQ2” in New Jersey. “The RFP makes it clear that Amazon will be looking to engage with excellent institutions of higher education, partly because of your interest in working with exceptional faculty and students, and partly because your employees can benefit from the intellectual and cultural resources they offer,” Eisgruber wrote. “Princeton University provides multiple opportunities for intellectual enrichment and engagement, exceptional cultural offerings in theater, music, the other creative and performing arts, and a first-rate art museum; as you may know, we just opened a new arts complex that will allow us to increase the range and depth of artistic life on campus.”
Bezos has donated extensively to his alma mater, including a $15 million grant in 2011 to build a neuroscience center.
New Jersey is already home to seven Amazon facilities that employ 13,000 full-time workers. The company recently announced plans to build three new fulfillment centers in Edison, Cranbury, and Logan townships.