STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JAN. 18, 2018…..With the Boston area one step closer to landing Amazon’s massive second headquarters, the mayor and top state leaders celebrated Thursday and indicated they plan to involve themselves in the next steps of the process.
The internet behemoth announced Thursday that Boston was selected as one of 20 locations that Amazon will consider further as it seeks a place to invest $5 billion in construction to build a headquarters that is expected to employ as many as 50,000 people with “high-paying jobs.”
“I am proud that Boston is on Amazon’s shortlist for its second North American headquarters,” Mayor Martin Walsh said in a statement. “As a thriving city with a talented and diverse workforce, culture of innovation and opportunity for all, I see no better city than Boston for Amazon to call their second home.”
On Thursday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the city of Somerville confirmed that Somerville also remains under consideration. An Amazon spokesperson could not be immediately reached, but the Somerville spokeswoman said Amazon contacted the city Thursday morning to say its hopes for Amazon’s HQ2 remain alive. It is unclear whether the cities are being considered jointly or own their own, though Amazon’s announcement only of Boston suggests Somerville is being considered as part of Boston’s bid.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who hails from nearby Winthrop, suggested the Legislature might have a role to play as the city and state attempt to lure Amazon to the Boston metro area.
“With a highly educated, technology-friendly workforce, Boston is the perfect place for Amazon to put down roots. The Legislature has focused on providing a stable and predictable environment for business, and we have backed programs like the Intern Partnership, MassCAN and STEM Starter Academy to prepare the innovators of tomorrow,” the speaker said in a statement. “I was honored to collaborate with the Mayor on our bid and look forward to working with Governor (Charlie) Baker, Mayor Walsh and my colleagues in the Legislature as we strive towards bringing the company here.”
The 182-page proposal state officials submitted in the fall highlighted the state’s “broad array of financial programs to attract private investment and to promote innovation and job creation,” but did not make any specific offer to Amazon.
“Massachusetts put forth a comprehensive proposal that showcased the Commonwealth’s global innovation economy, world-class workforce and leading higher educational institutions across the state,” Baker communications director Lizzy Guyton said in a statement, which also said the administration is “excited” to work with Boston and Somerville as the bid moves forward.
Amazon already employs “thousands” of people in Massachusetts at locations such as Amazon Robotics in North Reading, fulfillment centers in Fall River and Stoughton, a research-and-development office in Cambridge, and at an office expected to open in Boston’s Fort Point area, state officials noted.
Acting Senate President Harriette Chandler said in a statement, “It is great to see that Amazon recognizes the amazing resources and opportunities that Massachusetts has to offer.”
Though public officials are excited by the prospect of Amazon making a $5 billion investment in Massachusetts and employing 50,000 people here, some advocacy groups pumped the brakes a bit Thursday and said the state has work to do before it is ready to welcome Amazon.
“Amazon’s choice of Massachusetts as a headquarters finalist is a testament to our best-in-the-nation workforce, but right now, we don’t have enough homes for the tens of thousands of workers Amazon would bring. Our housing shortage is already pricing some of our current workers out of the housing market,” Rachel Heller, CEO of the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association, said in a statement. “If we want to win the Amazon headquarters and support continued economic growth, Massachusetts needs aggressive action to build more homes at every income level.”
Heller said the Legislature can start by passing a housing bond bill and then adopting zoning reform legislation that will encourage new housing production. She also noted that housing has been elevated on the Legislature’s priority list with Chandler now in control of the Senate.
The Freedom For All Massachusetts campaign, which is opposing a 2018 ballot question that seeks to repeal a law that gives transgender people legal protection against discrimination in public accommodations, said the ballot question threatens Boston’s ability to land Amazon.
“Boston is a great option for Amazon to locate its HQ2, in large part, because our state laws ensure that industry giants like Amazon are able to attract talented employees of all backgrounds who know they are fully protected under the law here,” campaign manager Phil Sherwood said in a statement. “As Massachusetts voters face a dangerous and anti-transgender ballot question this November, it is important to know what impact that vote will have on a decision as monumental as this one.”
Sherwood pointed to North Carolina, which saw the NCAA pull championship games from the state after lawmakers passed a bill that required transgender people to use bathrooms matching the sex on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity, as an example of how businesses might react to Massachusetts repealing its transgender protections.
Amazon said Thursday it now plans to “dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information as necessary, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate our hiring plans as well as benefit our employees and the local community.”
A final decision from Amazon is expected in 2018.