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Could Oklahoma become site of new Amazon headquarters?

Kjell Redal / The Seattle Times
The current Amazon campus in downtown Seattle, Washington.
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Could Oklahoma be in the running for the second headquarters location for Amazon, one of the world’s leading e-commerce companies?

According to news released by online retail tech giant Amazon, the company is seeking locations for a second headquarters hub outside of Seattle, Wash.

Amazon expects to invest more than $5 billion in construction to grow a second headquarters location to be a full equal to Amazon’s current campus in Seattle, creating as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community, according to information from Amazon.

Leaders from cities across the U.S. are vying for a chance to reap in the lucrative bid, and Tulsa has already proclaimed interest to bid for Amazon’s new HQ.

Oklahoma City is taking a careful approach to the announcement, said David McCollum, media relations coordinator for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.

“The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber is closely monitoring the process Amazon announced for its headquarters selection. It will be important to review the company's requirements before making any formal announcement regarding the Oklahoma City region's participation,” McCollum said in a statement to Red Dirt Report. “The number of questions and encouragement in we have received from the community for competing in this significant economic development search is a reinforcement of our city's pride and support for the continued growth and diversification of our economy.”

In Tulsa, however, wheels are already in motion for the city to make a formal bid for Amazon’s new headquarters. Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum has already publically said the city would be a perfect community, and the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce is showing enthusiasm as well for the idea.

“We have a lot going for Tulsa, including a strong workforce and a strong work ethic,” said Brien Thorstenberg, senior vice president of economic development. “We also have a very good strategic reach with partners and we can pull in a lot of different resources.”

If an Oklahoma community did win the Amazon HQ2 bid, the rewards could be staggering. From 2010 to 2016, Amazon estimates its investments in Seattle resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city’s economy. For every dollar invested by Amazon, an additional $1.40 was generated in the city’s overall economy, according to Amazon.

Not every city meets the e-commerce giant’s needs, however. In fact, Amazon is looking for a city that has a population of more than 1 million with a “highly-educated” talent pool, especially in software development and tech. In addition, the ideal site, according to Amazon, would need to have an airport that is easy to fly into (one of the state’s weakest points) and enough space for growth – as much as 8 million square feet.

For Tulsa, IT and professional services are among the target industries the city is developing, Thorstenberg said.

“We recently had a labor analysis done that was released in June, and it showed that the skill level in IT and professional services were very strong,” he said. “But it’s smaller. We will have to be creative to meet the needs of Amazon and supply that pipeline of talent.”

Oklahoma’s lack of non-stop, daily flights to locations like Seattle, San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C. could be a major deal-breaker if the state gets on the short list.

“One of our initiatives in Tulsa between the airport, the Chamber, the George Kaiser Foundation and other partners is to increase the number of direct flights out of Tulsa,” Thorstenberg said. “In fact, next year, we’ll add three new direct flights. It’s very much a factor in their decision. But Tulsa has a great quality of life. It’s a place where people want to live and stay and relocate to. That gives us a competitive edge.”

Deadline for cities to apply is Oct. 19. For cities like Tulsa, that means a little over a month to put together a lucrative and attractive package.

“We are working together with our strategic partners to put together the most creative package we can,” Thorstenberg said. “It’s going to take a lot of creative planning because this is going to be a very competitive field.”

Cities like Toronto, Chicago, Pittsburg, Baltimore, Dallas and Washington, D.C., have already publically declared interest in wooing Amazon as well.

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Heide Brandes

Heide Brandes is an award-winning journalist and editor with more than 18 years of experience....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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