Indy Would Be 'A Longshot' In Bid To House Massive New Amazon HQ

Sep 8, 2017

UPDATE: Indianapolis officials have since announced their plans to formally bid for the Amazon project. Read the story here

State officials won’t say if Indianapolis will join the race to house Amazon’s next headquarters. And despite the Hoosier capital’s push to become a tech hub, analysts say the it may face an uphill battle if it opts to bid on the massive project.

Amazon opened bidding Thursday on its “HQ2.” The tech giant wants to be able to develop as much 8 million square feet in a North American city with a metro population of at least a million, a trained workforce and myriad other amenities.

Indianapolis meets the basic criteria – it has a metro population of nearly 2 million people, and a handful of sites that fit Amazon’s goals.

The company wants half a million square feet in existing buildings and 100 acres of greenfield space to start with, plus room to grow and quick access to a major airport and highways.

“The disadvantage is going to be the talent pool that they have to draw from,” says Jay Walters of Fishers-based site selection firm Fairwinds Advisors.

Amazon wants to hire 50,000 people at the new HQ – including lots of software engineers. Walters says even cities like Toronto and Denver, which plan to bid on the project, may have trouble with that.

“But what they do have that I’m afraid Indianapolis doesn’t have is more quality of life things,” he says. “If we had mountains or an ocean, it might be a different story, but the young people tend to look for more outdoor activities and things that we just don’t have to offer here.”

Walters says “it’s a challenge” for Amazon or any company that wants to recruit lots of recent graduates to do so in Indianapolis. He thinks the city will be a stronger contender for tech growth when the industry and its workers get older, and want somewhere to raise families.

Still, Walters thinks it can’t hurt for Indianapolis to throw its hat in the ring for the new Amazon hub. With thousands of Indiana workers already employed in Amazon warehouses, he says a strong bid could get the city or state on short list for future projects.

In the coming years, Amazon plans to spend up to $5 billion dollars building out the new headquarters. It says its existing HQ, in Seattle, takes up 8.1 million square feet of space, employs more than 40,000 people and contributed $38 billion to the city’s economy between 2010 and 2016.

Other cities that say they will bid on the Amazon project include Chicago, Nashville, Kansas City (Missouri), Dallas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Arlington (Virginia), according to Quartz. The deadline for proposals is Oct. 19, and Amazon aims to choose a site in 2018.