From the numbers, Amazon’s requirements to host a second North American headquarters appears impossible, yet a number of communities, including Warwick and Johnston, have submitted plans to the state to do just that. Commerce Rhode Island will then submit a proposal to Amazon by this Thursday’s deadline.
The prize is enticing. When up and fully running, Amazon projects to employ 50,000. These are all new jobs with compensation in the range of $100,000. That’s 10 times the number of Electric Boat employees in Quonset and more than five times those employed by CVS headquartered in Woonsocket.
A headquarters of such magnitude is projected to cover 100 acres and provide 8 million square feet of space. That’s equivalent to eight Warwick Malls.
In effect, Amazon aims to build a mini city within a community. There would need to be parking for thousands of cars; restaurants within the headquarters campus to feed everyone; its own security force and even clinics to care for employees.
Amazon projects it needs a 100-acre site with easy access to major population centers via major highway systems; reasonable travel time to an international airport with daily direct flights to Washington, DC, Seattle and the San Francisco/Bay Area; a highly educated workforce, a strong university system and a stable and business-friendly environment.
That’s a partial list of requirements.
Amazon is also looking for incentives – we’re talking tax breaks and other perks – as well as a stable and consistent business climate. Also on the list are a compatible cultural and community environment and a local government that will work with the company.
Rhode Island would appear to fit the bill on many levels. It is well positioned in the northeast with easy access to major highways, an airport – although Green does not have the coast-to-coast flights sought – and a university system seemingly capable of meeting Amazon requirements. Johnston would appear to have a site, while City Centre Warwick that Mayor Scott Avedisian is anxious to develop has many attributes but would seem to be short on space.
As Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker suggested, the Amazon proposal would best be served by a regional approach.
Understandably, Commerce has been tightlipped on the plan it will submit on behalf of the state. Rhode Island surely does not want to tip its hand to the other state and municipalities vying for this prize.
Nonetheless, the quest to lure Amazon is a long shot that arguably could be futile. That said, the state should be at the table and bidding. Yet we would hope that the state has also been in conversation with our neighbors, for if Amazon builds within the region we all benefit.