El Paso

Borderplex Alliance committees hard at work on pitch to lure Amazon to El Paso

Borderplex Alliance committees hard at work on pitch to lure Amazon to El Paso

EL PASO, Texas - Amazon is looking to build its second headquarters somewhere in North America, and cities across the country, including El Paso, are preparing to prove why they're the best location.

So what does the borderland have to offer? 

Dubbed "HQ2," the facility will cost at least $5 billion to construct and operate and will employ as many as 50,000 workers. 

"We want to get on Amazon's radar screen to talk about and brag about our incredibly young and productive work force here, our sophisticated manufacturing base, and our geographic location," Jon Barela, CEO of the Borderplex Alliance said. 

ABC-7 has learned the Borderplex Alliance already has multiple committees hard at work to create a strong and compelling pitch. 

According to Amazon HQ2's Request for Proposal obtained by ABC-7, cities have until October 19 to send an electronic copy and five hard copies of their proposal to the company. In the project's overview, it says the company will hire as many as 50,000 new full-time employees with an average total compensation exceeding $100,000 over the next 10 to 15 years. 

It's expected to have over $5 billion in capital expenditures. 

In choosing the location, Amazon is looking for a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people, a stable and business-friendly environment, urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract strong technical talent and communities that can think big when it comes to real estate options. 

Amazon says the company will begin sourcing for talent upon the final site selection. The company says it has a highly competitive benefits package including a retirement plan, health insurance and maternity/paternity leave. The jobs will likely include management, engineers with a preference for software development, legal, accounting and administrative. 

The site must be at least 30 miles from a population center and 45 minutes from an International Airport. The site also must have access to mass transit. 

Initial building requirements state by 2019, the building must be at least 500,000 square feet, and up to 8,000,000 square feet beyond 2027. 

If the city does not have a building already of that size, the company will consider a plot of land that's 100 acres. 

Cities must provide cellular phone coverage maps to ensure optimal service. Cities must also identify incentive programs available at the state and local level. 

"At the local level, these types of incentives really don't influence these types of decisions at all," Tom Fullerton, an economics professor at UTEP, said. "That's because municipal taxes and local taxes are such a small portion of the overall package that they really don't matter. Providing free land, that might be more of a reasonable step to take."

"Even though, from the city and county courthouse perspective, these represent big investments, from a large corporation like Amazon it's not going to register at all," Fullerton added. 

Fullerton said there is evidence that some types of state incentives will work. Regardless, he said El Paso is an attractive destination for a major corporation. 
"We shouldn't sell ourselves short and automatically assume we're going to have to some how sweeten the pot and give preferential tax treatment to an out of town organization at the expense of local households and local businesses because this is one of the locations that is a destination that people desire," Fullerton said. 
Barela said what type of incentives El Paso offers would not be revealed until later down the line, after the finalists had been announced. He said El Paso intends to use its regional assets to entice the company. 

"And tend to also tell the story that we happen to be a very safe, sophisticated community full of productive workers," Barela said. "And if we can't get the HQ2 project maybe there will be an ancillary business unit from Amazon that would perhaps want to locate at least a portion of its business here in the borderplex area." 

Amazon states a highly educated labor pool and a strong university system is also required. 

Access to an International Airport with direct flights to Seattle, New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. is also an important consideration, along with quality of life for employees.

Cities are also required to submit information of local/regional K-12 education programs related to computer science. The site will be selected in 2018.

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