Civic leaders in Jackson County are jumping into the ring and making a pitch to Amazon, Inc., to consider Northeast Alabama when choosing a location for the online retail giant’s second headquarters.
Scottsboro Mayor Robin Shelton alongside Jackson County Commission Interim Chairman Mike Ashburn and Jackson County Economic Development Authority President and CEO Shelia Shepard assembled a team of community leaders to craft the pitch for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The official pitch was overnighted to Amazon earlier this week, and signed for in Seattle at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday.
“Why not?” asked Shelton. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
In early September, the Seattle-based company announced that Amazon would seek to build a second home in North America. According to Amazon.com, HQ2 as it will be known “will be Amazon’s second headquarters in North America.” Amazon put out an open Request for Proposals (RFP) via their website, encouraging cities and locales to be creative and innovative in courting the potential economic engine.
At last count, more than 118 cities including Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Denver, Nashville, San Diego and Toronto have announced their intent to court Amazon. In Alabama, both Birmingham and Huntsville are offering Amazon incentive packages to locate in the state.
The company expects to invest over $5 billion in construction, and the headquarters are expected to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs. Furthermore, Amazon claims that the construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.
“We’re selling the region,” said Rick Roden, President and CEO of the Greater Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. “Companies like Google have recognized that Jackson County is in the heart of what we’re calling the data corridor of the South. We want Amazon to know about it, too.”
The team is touting Scottsboro’s proximity to both Huntsville and Chattanooga, as well as easy access to major highways in the state.
The city has proposed to explore tax abatements for Amazon should they choose to make an investment into Scottsboro, for up to 20 years as allowed by Alabama state law. Scottsboro is hoping to attract Amazon with a 537-acre tract of undeveloped city-owned land on Goose Pond Island, near the former Scottsboro Aluminum building.
The tract of land was last appraised in 2015 for $7.5 million.
“We’ll call it Amazon Island,” said Shelton.
Amazon’s RFP states that HQ2 will need to be near a population center with 1 million or more people, close to major roads and mass transit routes and within 45 minutes of an international airport.
In the submitted proposal, a report from North Alabama Industrial Development Association (NAIDA) states that 2,150,000 people reside within a 60-mile radius of the proposed site for Amazon. The proposal also touts proximity to major federal and state highways, rail access to the site and the distances from Huntsville, Nashville and Atlanta’s international airports.
The proposal includes letters of support for the project from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Scottsboro Electric Power Board (SEPB) and an artist’s rendering of what HQ2’s campus might look like on Goose Pond Island.
By putting the proposal together, the team has assembled a package that can be tailored to other economic and industrial giants who might consider the region as well.
“We’re putting ourselves on the map,” said Shelton. “Scottsboro is open for business. Big business.”
The deadline for cities to submit proposals was Thursday, Oct. 19. Final site selection and announcement will come in 2018, per the proposal request.