In the national feeding frenzy to attract Amazon’s second headquarters, some major cities have bent over backward offering financial incentives to land the online retail giant.
Scott County, however, is offering freedom.
Proposed sites in Shakopee and Elko New Market promise something that other urban candidates can’t, local leaders say.
“An opportunity to design and shape the site, the city, and the area as a planned community which fits Amazon’s needs, rather than Amazon designing its facility and surroundings to fit into a developed setting,” Savage Mayor Janet Williams wrote in a letter to Amazon supporting her neighboring city’s bid.
Last month, Amazon announced plans to establish a second North American headquarters outside its Seattle home. That could mean $5 billion worth of investment into an expansive corporate campus with as many as 50,000 workers. The tech company prefers metropolitan areas with more than a million people, a business-friendly atmosphere with the potential to attract strong technical talent and a development-ready site.
According to recent census data, the Twin Cities is the nation’s 16th-largest metropolitan area with 3.5 million people and growth projections outpacing the average across all U.S. cities.
Greater MSP, a public-private regional promotion group, and the state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) are evaluating more than a dozen sites offered by municipal officials and property developers. Bids are due by Oct. 19.
Scott County advocates have touted Shakopee and Elko New Market as growing, affluent southwestern communities just a half-hour from downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul. Though they vary in size — Shakopee has 40,000 residents, while Elko New Market has under 5,000 — they both lie along major thoroughfares and have access to sprawling development sites.
In the bedroom community of Elko New Market, a 120-acre industrial park southeast of Interstate 35 and County Road 2 has sat vacant for several years. Minneapolis-based developer Ryan Companies currently manages the site.
City Council Member Josh Berg said the city worked with First Stop Shop, an organization that assists Scott County cities on economic development requests, to submit an Amazon proposal for the business park.
“It’s obviously a long shot,” said Berg, who hopes the effort will bring visibility to the town. “But who knows? It really depends on what Amazon is looking for.”
The downside of a lack of nearby transit options might be countered by the versatility of the site, Berg said. “It’s a blank slate. You’re not constrained by a bunch of buildings,” he noted.
City administrator Tom Terry declined to discuss specifics about the Amazon proposal, but said that the town has letters of support from local organizations and the cities of Savage, Prior Lake, Belle Plaine, Jordan, New Prague and Faribault.
An environmental study of the property has been completed along with infrastructure design for sewer and water services. The interchange at I-35 and County Road 2 may require improvements to accommodate a large development.
The Scott County Association for Leadership and Efficiency (SCALE), which represents entities from across the county, have previously identified that interchange as having high growth potential. Speculation swirled that Amazon might build on the site in 2014, but the company chose Shakopee for its 850,000-square-foot fulfillment center, which employs 2,500 workers.
Shakopee officials would not say which location has been submitted for the proposal. But the 270-acre Dean Lakes Development, just off Hwy. 169 and County Road 83, is available, according to the First Stop Shop website.
Some business leaders hope that an existing Amazon facility might boost the city’s chances.
Prior Lake Mayor Kirt Briggs, who signed a letter supporting both towns, said a development of that size would have major economic impacts on the entire region.
“On this one we thought it best to support our neighbors,” Briggs said. “We’re all in this together.”
Nicole Norfleet contributed to this report.