Dayton leaders push area for Amazon HQ

Online retail giant seeks site for $5 billion offices, 50,000 jobs.

By Cornelius Frolik
Staff Writer


Some early predictions for where Amazon will decide to build its second headquarters do not include the Dayton region.

Some journalists, research groups and business analysts don’t have any Ohio city on their short list of contenders.

But Dayton officials and elected leaders say they are not deterred because the region checks many of the boxes important to Amazon for the site of its new $5 billion headquarters.

Local officials say they intend to make a compelling case for why southwest Ohio is a great fit for the online retail giant’s massive project, which is expected to result in 50,000 new jobs and billions of dollars in additional investment.

“We have a lot of opportunity here,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “If this lands somewhere in southwest Ohio, we all win.”

Amazon this month issued a request for proposals from metro regions in North America that want its second headquarters (called HQ2).

The company, which is one of the world’s largest online retailers, is giving jurisdictions until Oct. 19 to submit a response outlining why it is the ideal place for Amazon’s project.

Since the solicitation went out, many cities across the nation have said they plan to try to woo Amazon.

Last week, this newspaper revealed that the city of Dayton would enter the HQ2 race, despite what is sure to be fierce competition.

An analysis by Geekwire puts the front-runners as Toronto, Ottawa, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Brookings did an analysis that determined the best 20 contenders, and it included New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Atlanta and Minneapolis. Neither analysis, or several others, listed a city in Ohio as a likely favorite.

The predictions have been based on some of the preferences Amazon has shared.

The company wants a metro area with more than 1 million people; a business environment that is stable and friendly; urban or suburban locations with potential to attract and retain strong technical talent; and communities that think big and creatively for locations and real estate options.

Other key considerations include having suitable buildings and sites, financial incentives and a sufficiently sized and highly educated labor pool.

Amazon also said a strong university system is required, and the company wants to invest in a community where its employees will have a high quality of life.

Some observers already have ruled out Dayton on the grounds that it does not meet the population criteria. The Dayton metro area has slightly more than 800,000 people.

But city leaders said Dayton is close to Cincinnati, and the combined metro areas are the 15th largest region in the United States. The Dayton metro area includes Greene, Miami and Montgomery counties. The Cincinnati metro area has nearly 2.2 million people.

“As a region, and an uber region here in southwest Ohio, the assets we have are just enormous,” Whaley said. “We undersell ourselves too often.”

Also, Dayton has a commitment to inclusivity, a strong workforce, renowned universities and research institutions, a U.S. Air Force base and a growing logistics industry, Whaley said.

Dayton is regularly referred to as the “Crossroads of America,” because it is where Interstate 70 and 75 intersect, and local officials claim southwest Ohio is a day’s drive from about half of the U.S. population.

“There are a lot of strategic discussions going on right now about how we can put our best foot forward,” said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.

Amazon says its capital investment could exceed $5 billion over 15 to 17 years of the project.

The company says it expects to create as many as 50,000 new jobs that on average pay more than $100,000 annually.

Amazon constructed 33 buildings as part of its Seattle headquarters that have 8.1 million square feet of space.

Amazon employs more than 40,000 people at its original headquarters. Amazon says its investments led to $38 billion in additional spending.

But not everyone agrees that Amazon is great for the local economy.

Eldar Gurbanov said he recently moved to the Dayton region from Seattle because the city became too expensive.

Gurbanov said he’s an Uber drive who could not keep up with rising costs.

“Even a shack — a bad conditioned house — costs like $500,000 to $600,000,” he said. “We ran away from Amazon — it’s crazy, they are buying everything there.”

Gurbanov said Amazon pays very well, but it brings in workers from all over the country, instead of using the local labor force.