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What’s next for Charlotte’s Amazon HQ bid

Incentives given to new companies to come to North Carolina

Big job relocation announcements often come with big incentives packages. The state of North Carolina typically offers tax rebates worth millions of dollars to companies that move here, usually with a smaller matching amount from local governments
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Big job relocation announcements often come with big incentives packages. The state of North Carolina typically offers tax rebates worth millions of dollars to companies that move here, usually with a smaller matching amount from local governments

Charlotte has officially submitted its proposal to land Amazon’s second headquarters, a $5 billion campus and development bonanza. Now begins the waiting game.

Amazon, notoriously tight-lipped, hasn’t officially said how or when it will let cities know where they stand in the competitive process. But several people familiar with the matter say Amazon will whittle down its options of over 100 North American cities within the next few weeks – meaning Charlotte could know whether it makes the shortlist in a little over a month.

The proposal was shipped to Seattle in a custom-made box Wednesday. Everything in it was made by a Charlotte company: Bubble Wrap by Sealed Air, the wooden box by Musser & Company and photography by Kent Smith.

Dianne Chase, spokeswoman for the groups preparing Charlotte’s bid, said the official date to find out whether the city made the shortlist is Dec. 1. But officials could know sooner if they make the cut.

“From what we understand, we will be notified ahead of time,” she said. Until then, groups such as the Charlotte Regional Partnership and the Charlotte Chamber plan to keep promoting the #CLTisPrime hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, as well as sharing more about what makes Charlotte attractive on the CharlotteIsPrime.com website.

“We want to make sure to keep the social media campaign roaring,” Chase said.

The group bidding for Charlotte included in the proposal letters from a handful of influential leaders, including Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl and LendingTree CEO Doug Lebda.

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If Charlotte makes the shortlist, things could get a lot quieter. Economic development officials expect Amazon to go through a more traditional process at that point, with nondisclosure agreements and the secrecy surrounding the finalists.

But Amazon has already thrown out most of the economic development playbook with its public casting call for new headquarters applicants, and it could well decide to make the shortlist public. That could encourage the cities to compete even harder – and offer more financial incentives – to lure Amazon.

In the five weeks since Amazon first announced it was seeking proposals from prospective cities, economic development officials, government leaders, sports organizations and business groups have been working furiously to put together a proposal for Charlotte, which Chase said includes a spoken word video extolling the city.

That’s in addition to the more prosaic details that could lure a company.

Included in Charlotte’s proposal are details of the more than 20 possible sites where the campus could be built. Amazon has said the new headquarters could have up to 8 million square feet of office space, roughly twice as much as what’s in Ballantyne Corporate Park’s-worth, to give you a sense of the scale.

Elsewhere in North Carolina, Raleigh/Durham, the Triad and Hickory are also submitting bids. The North Carolina Department of Commerce has said it will equally support all bids.

The search for Amazon’s second headquarters has been unusual from the get-go – normally economic development projects aren’t done publicly and with this much fanfare. The Seattle company has said it will invest $5 billion in its new campus, where it will add up to 50,000 high-paying jobs.

To land a project of this magnitude, it’s possible North Carolina may have to expand its incentives program. New Jersey confirmed this week it will offer $7 billion in tax incentives to land the headquarters in Newark, according to multiple news reports.

That’s more than 10 times the $683 million that North Carolina and local officials offered Boeing in 2014 to try and lure a manufacturing plant, and would likely require legislative action.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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