What Indy can learn from losing out on Amazon’s HQ2

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indianapolis will not be home to Amazon’s $5 billion corporate expansion.

Despite making the short list of 20 cities, the Circle City lost out to New York's Long Island City and Virginia's Arlington.

In total, Amazon plans to add 50,000 jobs between the two locations.

“I'll tell you what is a little surprising to me, that they are so close to one another, and both in the Northeast,” said Katie Culp who is the President of Indy-based KSM Location Advisors.  Her area within the company specializes in helping companies find the right locations across the country for office headquarters and manufacturing plants.

The search began in September 2017 when Seattle-based Amazon announced it would start accepting proposals for what quickly became known as HQ2.

During the process, Amazon narrowed 238 bids to 20 finalists, including Chicago, Denver, Nashville and Miami. Executives traveled across the United States – and to one Canadian city – to tour sites to find the company's next home. Indianapolis was also among those finalists.

Ultimately, it did not come as a big surprise to many people that Amazon didn’t choose Indianapolis, but local economist experts say there are some positive lessons to be learned.

"It’s probably been a good experience. We’ve gotten some exposure. The city has come together to put this bid together, so it’s not terrible thing. It’s a disappointment, but it could be worse," said Kyle Anderson with the IUPUI School of Business.

Anderson says Indianapolis can learn from what Amazon said was lacking locally, especially better mass transit, to attract other businesses in the future.

"Some things like public transportation are things Indy will have to improve going forward to be attractive," said Anderson.

Although details of the incentive plan offered to Amazon was not disclosed, the Indy Chamber Chief Economic Development Officer Maureen Krauss added, “Simply by being in Amazon’s top 20, we are winners. This honor gave the Indy Region and the state the global exposure and the internal learnings to put us in a very positive position for future prospects.

The former GM Stamping plant site was one of the key headquarter locations for Indy's pitch.  Krauss called the spot, "One of the finest sites that I think any city in North America has right now."  Ambrose Property Group recently announced that the location will now become a $1.38 billion mixed-use development, including a 2.75 million square foot office space.  Krauss said companies have already contacted the city about moving there because of the Amazon finalist publicity.

Mayor Joe Hogsett believes the effort the city put into attracting Amazon will pay off in the long run. Hogsett released a statement on the matter:

Since Amazon announced its search for a new global headquarters, leaders from across Central Indiana have come together to demonstrate the vibrancy and strength of our region’s economic ecosystem. From our talent pipeline, to our proven track record of private-public partnerships, from our culture of innovation, to our collaborative spirit – Indianapolis rose to the top of Amazon’s search process because this is a place companies want to do business and the workforce of the future wants to live, work, and play.

I am confident that the efforts of our region over the last 14 months will pay dividends for years to come, and taxpayers can celebrate that, unlike many cities, we were able to accomplish these things without spending tax dollars.

Indianapolis residents can also take heart that our economic momentum continues to propel us forward: in just the last few months, Infosys has committed to hire 3,000 new employees and invest in the former airport terminal site, and Swiss-based Dormakaba announced that they will move their North American headquarters to Indianapolis and will add more than 100 new jobs.

In short, Indianapolis’ place as the Tech Hub of the Midwest may have shocked some across the country, but nothing about our success is surprising to the companies who continue to choose our city as a place to start a new company or take their vision to the next level.

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