Leggett: Montgomery County Will Make ‘Very Competitive’ Amazon Bid as Other Suitors Line Up
As region’s governments woo commerce giant, county executive says pitch will be sober, business-like
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett
Bethesda Beat file photo
Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett said Wednesday the county stacks up well with Amazon’s requirements for a new headquarters, even as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan says Baltimore city has the state’s best potential site.
Leggett said the county will take a business-like approach to attracting the company by highlighting the county’s importance in the Washington, D.C., region, its educated workforce and transit connectivity.
“We are going to be very competitive and aggressive pitching our county in terms of what we think are the assets that would be conducive to Amazon,” Leggett said in an interview with Bethesda Beat. “I think we have a number of locations that we are putting together for evaluation and for recommendation.”
Neither David Petr, the CEO of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corporation, nor Leggett would reveal specific sites the county plans to pitch. Some sites that could be considered include county-owned land near the Shady Grove Metro station or in White Oak. Private sites that could handle a headquarters of this size might include the White Flint Mall site or the Rock Spring area.
Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Montgomery County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore city in Maryland have expressed an interest in trying to recruit Amazon, which is based in Seattle and wants to build a second headquarters.
Amazon is asking for proposals from metropolitan regions in North America. The company is seeking a site to house as many as 50,000 employees in a headquarters expected to cost $5 billion to construct. The footprint for the project could reach up to 8 million square feet by 2027 and an initial 500,000 square feet by 2019.
The D.C. region, home of the federal government and one of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ homes, is seen as a leading contender in the economic development sweepstakes as well as other cities such as Boston, Denver and Austin. Bezos also owns The Washington Post.
Leggett acknowledged that the company, in its request for proposals, asked that metropolitan areas coordinate to submit one bid for the area. That’s particularly challenging in the Washington, D.C., region where D.C. and jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia compete against each other to attract businesses and don’t share a common state or city government. The company plans to select a site next year.
Leggett said the company specifically asked for a regional response, so the county will be receptive to the request.
“You can’t just give the response you want without being responsive to what they want,” Leggett said. “We will be part of the region, but at the same time highlighting within that why we think not only coming to the region would be a good choice, but coming to Montgomery County will be the best choice.”
The county’s proposal will compete against bids from Prince George’s County and Baltimore, as well as D.C. and northern Virginia—not to mention from the rest of the country and Canada. Hogan said last week he would advocate for the Port Covington site being pitched by Baltimore, although he said he’ll support other sites in the state, as well.
“The governor believes Port Covington is a tremendous site, and the state will be supporting efforts to bring the Amazon HQ2 to Baltimore City,” Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse wrote in an email. “As the governor has said, he would welcome Amazon to any location within Maryland, and the state and the Department of Commerce will work hard on behalf of any jurisdiction submitting a proposal.”
Leggett believes it was premature for Hogan to publicly support one location as jurisdictions work to complete their bids. The proposals are due by Oct. 19.
“I remind him that he’s the governor of all of Maryland,” Leggett said. “We will continue to push for what we believe is right. I’m the county executive of Montgomery County, so I’m going to advocate for Montgomery County.”
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who is running for governor, is pitching sites in his jurisdiction, a move that drew the ire of The Baltimore Sun editorial board.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser created a video featuring an Amazon Alexa device to pitch the city to the tech behemoth.
Loudoun, Arlington and Fairfax counties are also preparing bids to try to attract the company.
However, Leggett said he is concerned about the intense jockeying for what is a broad request for a site, which could create a bidding war between jurisdictions.
“I have to say, though, this whole matter has taken on sort of a selection process on steroids,” Leggett said. “I’ve never seen this type of reaction from virtually all over the country.”
Leggett hopes the county’s business-like approach will appeal to the internet giant.
“We’re going to move forward in a very sober, responsible way as to why we should be in contention to get this,” Leggett said. “This is not a popularity contest. It’s a very basic business decision and we’re going to approach it as one.”
Petr said Wednesday that the effort has brought together partners from the real estate community, government and private businesses to formulate the county’s proposal.
Amazon is looking for a site similar to its downtown Seattle headquarters that is within 30 minutes of a city and 45 minutes of an international airport. It’s also seeking on-site access to mass transportation and close proximity to a major highway.
“We see ourselves being able to offer something very relevant to what Amazon is asking in the [request for proposals],” Petr said. “We’ve identified sites that align directly to what Amazon needs.”
Petr said if he had 30 seconds to pitch the county to Bezos, he would highlight the highly educated local workforce, the diversity of the community and the purpose-driven attitude of residents.
“We have great residents and a great workforce that values doing good in the world,” Petr said.