The entire Hoosier State and Midwest would benefit if Amazon selects Indianapolis for its second headquarters, state and local officials say.
Employment opportunities two hours away and potential Amazon suppliers closer to home have northeast Indiana business and government authorities excited about the possibilities.
Amazon announced Wednesday that Indianapolis is among 20 finalists for the Seattle company's second headquarters that will employ about 50,000. Construction is expected to cost more than $5 billion. The final selection is expected sometime this year.
“It's a long list, for a shortlist,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at job site Indeed.
He said Amazon may use the list to pit the locations against each other and get better tax breaks or incentives. Two metro areas, New York and Washington, have more than one location that made the list, increasing competition there, he said.
“It's hard to say whether all these places are in play or Amazon wanted to encourage continued competition,” Kolko said.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether locations would be able to change their proposals or offer better incentives but said in a statement that it would “work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals.”
Indiana legislative leaders said it's too early to identify what incentives the state might offer and where the line might be drawn.
“Well I don't know, but I'm excited that they're considering us,” said Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne. “I think obviously to land an operation of this size and substance with the impact it's going to have you want to help them in ways to encourage them to come.”
House Speaker Brian Bosma. R-Indianapolis, said he was not surprised by the news and credited fellow Republicans for making Indiana “as regulatory friendly and as business friendly and tax friendly as possible.”
“I will also not be surprised if some legislative action has to be taken in order to facilitate some of the incentives that are being discussed,” Bosma said. “We'll work closely with the administration on that to be sure the IEDC (the Indiana Economic Development Corp.) and the governor have all the tools they need to make Indiana as attractive in this regard without hopefully giving away the store.”
Eric Doden, CEO of Greater Fort Wayne Inc., said an argument might be made that anywhere in the Midwest could see an impact if Indianapolis gets the headquarters. But Amazon and its suppliers could provide opportunities for Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana in particular, he said. Companies in the Amazon supply chain might not want the costs associated with a big city but still want to be close, he said.
“For us to get to Fishers and the Carmel area you're talking an hour and a half drive,” Doden said. “When you're talking downtown you're talking two hours. That is within a sphere where I think we would have a competitive cost structure and labor pool that would give us opportunities for us to land jobs that would be beneficial to Amazon.”
Just being in the top 20 enhances Indiana's reputation as a place for businesses to settle, Doden and others said.
“Because now what they're saying is if Amazon is looking at Indiana, then maybe we should be looking at Indiana.” That gives all communities “really upping their game,” such as Fort Wayne, the chance to attract companies outside of Amazon, Doden added.
John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, agrees that what's good for Indianapolis is good for the state.
“How that plays out specifically, I can only imagine the type of supply chain support, logistics, impact on education, workforce development,” he said. “There would be a broad range of things that if we were to make the short, short list we as a state would have to double down our efforts to win something like that.”
There is a potential that workers from northeast Indiana would move for jobs in Indianapolis, but that's true any day, Sampson said.
“I think it's important to recognize that if it's good for Indiana, it's good for Fort Wayne,” he said. “And we don't have to be too parochial about that. We can look at this as a opportunity for the state and the Midwest in general, and it's located here and not on the East Coast someplace.”
In an email, city of Fort Wayne spokesman John Perlich said the city supports efforts to bring Amazon to Indiana.
“This new investment would be a tremendous benefit to all communities in our state,” he said. “Across Indiana, we're working together to retain and attract talent, enhance economic development opportunities and provide unique quality of place amenities that businesses, families and individuals desire. Having Amazon headquartered in Indianapolis would raise the profile of Indiana and be a benefit to northeast Indiana with more investors likely looking to locate here.”
Ball State economist Michael Hicks said he believes Indianapolis is a top candidate.
“I believe the real contenders are probably Indianapolis, Columbus, Raleigh, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Nashville, Austin, Northern Virginia, Atlanta and Denver,” Hicks, director of Ball State's Center for Business and Economic Research, said in a news release Thursday. “There are real location specific limitations on the other places; labor costs and/or scarcity of good sites, or deep fiscal troubles.”
In a statement, Indiana Auditor Tera Klutz said, “With our AAA bond rating, low cost of business, outstanding workforce and high quality of life, I can think of no better place than the 'Crossroads of America' for Amazon's second headquarters to be built.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Here is the list of the areas Amazon is weighing:
• Austin, Texas
• Los Angeles
• Montgomery County, Md.
• Newark, N.J.
• New York
• Northern Virginia
• Washington, D.C.