Source: Times Colonist
Author: Katie DeRosa
Langford to battle big US cities for Amazon's second HQ
The City of Langford plans to compete with cities such as Denver, Chicago and Atlanta in a bid to house retail giant Amazon’s second headquarters.
Amazon has said it plans to invest $5 billion in a second headquarters in North America. It will eventually house 50,000 employees.
Langford Mayor Stew Young said Friday that the municipality’s affordable housing options, business-friendly attitude and proximity to quality universities and colleges make it a viable place for one of the biggest tech companies in the world to set down roots.
“I know there’s a lot of competition, but we just need to make sure we give it our best shot because it would help our community in the long run.”
Young said 120 acres of land near the Leigh Road interchange — which he would rename Amazon Way — could accommodate the headquarters, which would have an initial footprint of 500,000 square feet and eventually expand up to eight million square feet over the next decade. He said the land is already zoned for commercial use.
“A company this size will generate income and jobs for a very long time and it will be beneficial for the whole Vancouver Island region,” Young said.
“When you look at the region, you’ve got Camosun College, Royal Roads, you’ve got good access to the labour pool and the talent that’s required.”
One Victoria tech expert thinks the bid is a long shot.
The 50,000 employees Amazon would need to work in the second headquarters is more than double the current high-tech workforce in Greater Victoria, said Dan Gunn, chief executive of the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council.
“So it would take a heck of a lot of work to attract that many people and house them and find a way for them to plug into the community,” Gunn said. “We’d never say no to the opportunity, so if Amazon is interested, they should by all means give us a call. But I think that’s more than we can provide at this time.”
Young acknowledged that Langford doesn’t meet all of Amazon’s criteria, which includes a metropolitan area with more than one million people and the ability to attract and retain strong tech talent.
The company also wants the headquarters to be within 45 minutes of an international airport, close to major roads and highways and have access to mass transit.
Amazon’s existing headquarters is a sprawling 33-building campus in Seattle.
Gunn said even if the Amazon pitch doesn’t fly, it sends a message that Langford is actively courting tech companies.
“I think there’s great opportunity for Langford to expand its tech footprint, because right now it’s quite small,” he said.
Young said he has a team of business owners and municipal staff who are working on submitting the bid by Oct. 19.
“The tech industry is best served by innovators that are bold and brash and ambitious, so you don’t know if you don’t try,” Gunn said.
“I don’t think there’s any harm in raising your hand, but we’ll see what Amazon’s reaction is.”