What's In Store

Charlotte wants to be home to Amazon’s $5 billion second headquarters

The Amazon receiving center on Old Dowd Road at Wilkinson Boulevard in west Charlotte.
The Amazon receiving center on Old Dowd Road at Wilkinson Boulevard in west Charlotte. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Amazon is looking for a home for a second headquarters campus, a $5 billion project that would add nearly 50,000 high-paying jobs. Does Charlotte stand a chance?

The Seattle-based e-commerce giant said early Thursday that it is seeking proposals from prospective cities for a second North American headquarters, called HQ2. And Charlotte will throw its hat into the ring, according to an official familiar with the situation. The proposals are due Oct. 19.

Charlotte meets Amazon’s criteria for bidding cities: It is a metropolitan area with more than a million people, it is able to attract top technical talent, it is within 45 minutes of an international airport, and it has mass transit. In Charlotte, Amazon would be able to expand its headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade. Many other cities fit the bill, too, though – including Los Angeles, Toronto and Chicago.

“We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. “Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs.

A second headquarters campus would add to Amazon’s growing presence in the Charlotte region. The company began expanding its receiving center on Old Dowd Road last summer, for instance, and has been hiring at its has distribution center in Concord, where it already employs hundreds. Amazon’s Prime Air cargo planes also have a hub in Charlotte.

The e-commerce giant, notoriously tight-lipped with the media, issued a press release early Thursday that lays out the criteria for bidding cities. Experts say Amazon’s public request for submissions is a way to find the sweetest deal in terms of local incentives and tax exemptions.

“We relentlessly pursue every opportunity to bring new jobs to the state, and every day we respond to requests for proposals – from those big transformative projects that grab headlines to the many projects you don’t hear about beforehand,” N.C. Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland said in an email to the Observer, although he did not mention Amazon explicitly.

An Amazon spokeswoman declined to comment. Representatives from the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina and the Commerce Department said the state doesn’t comment on or confirm companies it may be pursuing for expansion.

It’s not unusual for corporations to try to shop around as they’re looking for new sites. Toyota and Mazda have North Carolina on their short list for a new manufacturing facility, for instance. North Carolina proposed $683 million in incentives to lure in Boeing in 2013, although the bid was dwarfed by other cities, and the jetliner ultimately picked Washington state.

The Associated Press contributed.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta