Lehigh Valley Does Not Make Amazon HQ2 Shortlist, but Benefits from Application Process

By Colin McEvoy on January 18, 2018

The Amazon campus in Seattle. The company is seeking to establish a second headquarters elsewhere in North America.

The Amazon campus in Seattle. The company is seeking to establish a second headquarters elsewhere in North America.

The Lehigh Valley did not make the shortlist of candidates for Amazon’s proposed second headquarters, but the application process undertaken by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has proven to be extremely beneficial for the region.

Amazon, the nation’s largest Internet-based retailer today (Jan. 18) released a list of 20 candidates still under consideration for the proposed HQ2 project. LVEDC submitted an application on behalf of the Lehigh Valley, but the region did not make the list.

However, the region’s application received positive direct feedback from Amazon, strengthening the Lehigh Valley’s already strong ties with the company. Additionally, the process led to a detailed assessment of the region’s economic strengths and competitive advantages, while simultaneously attracting wide media attention for the Lehigh Valley.

“We knew heading into this process that we didn’t meet all the application guidelines, and that we’d be competing with hundreds of larger cities and regions from across the country,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO, “but we believed this was an opportunity to sharpen our skills and to launch ourselves onto the same stage as larger markets.

“We were punching above our weight class, but if you don’t try to compete with larger markets you can’t get better. We developed a great proposal, got our name out there to a big audience, and fine-tuned our analysis and understanding of the Lehigh Valley’s competitive assets against larger markets. In the big picture, this will make us better and lead to wins in the future when we’re not competing against the entire country,” he said.

The extremely competitive selection process drew national media attention, with Amazon receiving 238 proposals from across North America. The shortlist of candidates released on Jan. 18 consists entirely of larger cities, including New York City, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta.

“Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough; all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity,” said Holly Sullivan, an executive with Amazon Public Policy. “Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation.”

Cunningham said the fact that the Lehigh Valley is no longer under consideration by Amazon does not eliminate the region from still benefiting from the selection process. Both Philadelphia and Newark – within 60 miles from the Lehigh Valley – remain in contention. LVEDC worked closely with the state of Pennsylvania, along with Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, in crafting its regional proposal and espousing the benefits of the Commonwealth, particularly the access and affordability of the eastern side of the state, Cunningham said.

Amazon currently has more than 2 million square feet of fulfillment centers and nearly 2,000 employees in the Lehigh Valley, allowing the company to reach 40 percent of the U.S. consumers and 50 percent of Canada’s within a day’s drive. Additionally, the Lehigh Valley International Airport (LVIA) is a key and growing hub for Amazon Prime.

Cunningham expressed support for Philadelphia in the next stage of the HQ2 process. If the project were established in Philadelphia, it would ultimately strengthen Amazon’s already-strong presence in the Lehigh Valley, and the Lehigh Valley would certainly become home to more Amazon employees. “We’re obviously disappointed that we did not make Amazon’s shortlist but we learned a lot from participating in the process,” Cunningham said. “We will continue to support Philadelphia’s proposal and use what we learned to attract other corporate headquarters to our market.”

LVEDC had discussions with an Amazon representative earlier today about the region’s proposal, building upon Cunningham’s visit with Amazon to Seattle in September for the Site Selectors Guild’s 2017 Fall Forum.

“We’ve enjoyed the process, and strengthened our relationships with Amazon,” said Matthew Tuerk, LVEDC Vice President of Development and Marketing. “That can’t hurt, they aren’t going anywhere and neither are we.”

The candidates still under consideration for the Amazon HQ2 proposal include:

  • Atlanta, Ga.
  • Austin, Texas
  • Boston, Mass.
  • Chicago, Ill.
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dallas, Texas
  • Denver, Colo.
  • Indianapolis, Ind.
  • Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Miami, Fla.
  • Montgomery County, Md.
  • Nashville, Tenn.
  • Newark, N.J.
  • New York City, N.Y.
  • Northern Virginia, Va.
  • Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Raleigh, N.C.
  • Toronto, Ont.
  • Washington D.C.
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