Gary Taking a Shot at New Amazon HQ

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GARY -

Another Indiana community is planning to throw its hat into the ring for the second Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) headquarters. Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says she still expects to hear from Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos after her city took out an advertisement Monday in The New York Times' business section appealing to the online marketplace mogul to consider the Lake County city. Freeman-Wilson understands Gary isn't top-of-mind like high-profile contenders including Boston or Chicago, but she tells Inside INdiana Business "I think it's a little early to handicap it, but I'd like to think that our chances are just as good as any of the other folk."

Her reason for optimism? The collaborative efforts among the city, The Region and the state. "We're not just going at this as solely Gary, Indiana. We're going at it as Gary, Indiana, a part of the Chicago SMSA," Freeman-Wilson says. "You know, it's certainly not as good as Chicago's chances, because, obviously, if Chicago stands alone, they stand alone. But a Gary-Chicago application is very competitive." She says her city's pitch and a potential pitch from Chicago are separate proposals, but Gary and the rest of northwest Indiana would benefit if either is selected. Partnerships with entities like the Northwest Indiana Forum and Indiana Economic Development Corp., she says, will be key.

The NYT ad, which is signed "Sincerely, Gary, Indiana," addresses Bezos directly as the collective voice of the city. It admits Gary's selection would be "far-fetched," but draws on historic examples of other far-fetched notions that succeeded like the early formation of the United States, landing on the moon and creating "a business selling books out of a garage." It also includes examples related more closely to the company's recently-released Request for Proposals, such as transportation-related development, opportunities presented by the nearby Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor and a new hospital.

Gary will face competition nationally and even within the state, as Indianapolis and Fishers announced last week their intention to join forces on a central Indiana play for "HQ2," which could bring an estimated 50,000 jobs and more than $5 billion in capital expenditures.

On Monday, Governor Eric Holcomb released a statement on the state's pursuit of the Amazon location:

Throughout my trip to Japan I was engaged in conversations about Amazon’s announcement the company plans to open a second North American headquarters. After I arrived home Friday night, I spent the weekend in briefings about the Amazon bid process. Indiana has a tremendous opportunity to be seriously considered in this process. We are doing what Amazon has asked us to do: coordinating efforts with all interested regions of the state to put our best bid forward.

I’ve called on the Indiana Economic Development Corporation to lead this collaborative effort that will culminate with a bid submission that includes local and state incentives as well as recommended best sites. Our process has been underway since the day Amazon made its intentions known, and I’m glad that regional leaders are organizing their efforts so we submit the best package to Amazon by the Oct. 19 deadline.

During an interview this weekend on Inside INdiana Business Television, Mike Langellier, CEO of the state's tech growth initiative TechPoint, called it a "once in a generation opportunity" and said landing it would require a "a giant, collective, creative, big thinking effort" to succeed.

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