Bid for Amazon HQ2 speaks to city’s development goals

Port St. Lucie would love to pull a guerrilla-marketing coup that lands Amazon’s HQ2 in Tradition.

Pete Tesch, president of the St. Lucie County Economic Development Council said it’s fun to think about, but not likely to happen.

“Technically, we are not qualified,” he said, referring to the company’s request for proposals. “However, given some of the physical assets and human talent, the development opportunities, we felt compelled to let one of America’s largest corporations know about this opportunity.”

More importantly, Tesch said, area economic-development folks got to do a major bit of self-evaluation that has updated the city’s proverbial resume.

Seattle-based Amazon set off an economic-development firestorm when it announced in September it was looking to set up a second headquarters, hence the moniker Amazon HQ2. Typical to its history of challenging convention, Amazon went about things differently than companies usually do when looking at large expansions. It sort of advertised itself and waited for the suiters to send love letters in the form of proposals. And arrive those proposals did.

With promises of about 50,000 jobs with average annual compensation packages of $100,000 each and an estimated $5 billion in capital outlay, Amazon is more than an attractive offer to most cities. It’s the golden opportunity of the century.

In all the company got about 240 proposals from all over the country. Many used unconventional approaches. One city sent a 21-foot-tall cactus to get Amazon thinking Arizona. A Georgia city offered to rename part of itself after Amazon. One unlikely contender in Connecticut made a video of the mayor asking an Amazon Alexa where the company should build its new headquarters. Alexa’s answer, of course, was that city.

Tesch said Port St. Lucie didn’t spend time dreaming up gimmicks like that. He said it put together a self-respecting proposal focused on resources.

That, he said, created a 217-page offer with the needed material to use for the three most important daily tasks of economic development – helping and keeping companies already in town, and making realistic pitches to attract new ones.

“You can grow (businesses),” he said. “You can retain them. You can attract them. We try to use our scarce resources to do all those.”

The economic development council is made up of public and private partners. Port St. Lucie is a member city. Tesch said the council has had much success lately.

“We’ve helped over 23 new and expanding businesses either grow or relocate here that are going to create over 1,200 jobs in the next year,” Tesch said.

Among other recent accomplishments, Tesch pointed to a City Electric Supply subsidiary, TAMCO, that was looking at other cities for relocation to consolidate manufacturing. That company has decided to stay in Port St. Lucie and build a 400,000-square foot facility in the Tradition Center for Commerce. That promises about 270 jobs with above-average pay for the area.

The company is getting property-tax abatement for five years, among other things. Property-tax incentives, Tesch said, are a powerful tool for cities and counties to use to attract and retain companies that are building.

“It helps the company overcome development cost, but doesn’t impact the bottom line from the city’s or county’s perspective,” he said. But, Amazon?

“I would be highly surprised if they picked up the phone and called me,” Tesch said.

 

For information about the council’s various helps for companies, visit www.youredc.com.

Leave a Comment