While other American cities threw $1 billion worth of financial incentives toward attracting Amazon’s second headquarters, Minnesota submitted a “restrained” proposal offering only a fraction — $3 to $5 million.
Recently released bids from Scott County take a similar approach, attempting to bait Amazon with community culture rather than cash. Development sites in Shakopee and Elko New Market granted modest public subsidies and the freedom to design a space specifically for Amazon’s needs.
“Amazonians and your guests would also have the benefit of Canterbury Park right next door,” the Shakopee proposal stated, touting the suburban horse racing track. “Imagine being able to go cross-country skiing or snow shoeing there in the winter? Or moving a meeting outside into the greenspace?”
None of it was enough to land the online retail giant.
Minnesota failed to make the list of 20 finalists for Amazon’s expansive corporate campus and its projected 50,000 employees. Local officials admit the endeavor was always a long shot. (Amazon waded through 238 applicants and is expected to announce its decision later this year.)
Yet, few details about Minnesota’s unsuccessful bid have been released. More than a dozen sites, including Shakopee and Elko New Market, were offered by municipalities and developers to include in the state’s official proposal. Greater MSP, a public-private regional promotion group in charge of submitting the plan, has denied repeated data requests from the Star Tribune seeking additional information. The organization cited a nondisclosure agreement with Amazon and confidential competitive information it says the bid contains as justification for keeping the state’s overall bid private.
So far, Scott County’s plans offer the biggest glimpse into how the state pitched itself.
The growing, affluent southwestern towns are located about 30 minutes from downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul. Though they vary in size — Shakopee has 40,000 residents, while Elko New Market has under 5,000 — both cities lie along major thoroughfares and have access to sprawling development sites.
In 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.
A 13-page proposal offered Amazon deferred city fees, tax-increment financing (TIF), reduced water rates and a high-speed fiber network to build there. Construction plans to extend water and sewer services to the parcel would cost about $3.4 million.
Without promising to pay for the upgrades, the city said it “will extend water to the site for the Amazon HQ2 Project within the time frame required,” according to the documents first obtained by Public Record Media (PRM), a St. Paul-based nonprofit advocating open government.
Another caveat: the land would require annexation from surrounding New Market Township before breaking ground.
“This was a much bigger fish than we ever expected to land in Elko New Market,” said City Council member Josh Berg. “We can only offer so much as a teeny, tiny town, but I think our region has a lot to offer.”
Public officials say the proposal may have already broadened the business park’s exposure. Data center operators have recently inquired about building on the site, which would also be suitable for a potential warehouse, business headquarters or distribution hub.
City Administrator Tom Terry said a major project resulting in high paying jobs would be a catalyst for development in the town — which currently lacks a supermarket.
In Shakopee, Canterbury Park quickly emerged as the most viable option for such a large-scale development.
“It was just the right amount of land,” said Michael Kerski, the city’s director of planning and development, “and had great access from two different highways.”
Racetrack owners have been exploring opportunities to commercialize its 380-acre plot for more than a decade. Their Amazon proposal floated a unique partnership that would give corporate employees access to the track’s infield for recreational events.
“At the time we were exploring all possibilities,” Canterbury Park spokesman Jeff Maday said.
A $400 million redevelopment project to create an upscale-living complex on the track’s west side remains in the works.
Stacy Crakes, of First Stop Shop, an organization that assists Scott County cities on economic development requests, said neither city received feedback from Greater MSP regarding their proposals.