Atlantic County officials said they want Amazon to make the area home for its second headquarters, a move that could bring needed employment and property taxes to a region with one of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation.
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson said the county is prepared to offer an aggressive package, including possibly millions of dollars in tax breaks, to entice Amazon to build its second North American headquarters in the region, county officials said.
Amazon announced last week it would spend more than $5 billion to build another headquarters in North America to house as many as 50,000 employees.
Competition to land the world’s largest online retailer will be fierce. So fierce that, hours after the county’s proposal was published on The Press of Atlantic City’s website Tuesday, Galloway Township Mayor Don Purdy revealed his community has been trying to entice Amazon to locate there for the past year.
Purdy said the township began courting Amazon over a year ago, offering use the old Blue Heron East golf course, a 410-acre property. There’s no deal, he said, but he believes the property meets many of Amazon’s real estate and logistical needs.
“Let’s all pray for the best,” Purdy said.
Amazon did not respond Tuesday to an emailed request for comment on the two local proposals.
Overall, the region faces an uphill battle to be selected, because it doesn’t meet several key criteria for mass transit and workforce, spelled out by Amazon in a seven-page request for proposals.
“As soon as we heard about this, we went to work to develop a strong, attractive proposal with competitive incentives,” Levinson said. “It helps that we now have the Atlantic County Economic Alliance to aid in this effort. Putting together such a detailed proposal would have been much more difficult without the benefit of the ACEA.”
While it might be difficult to lure Amazon to Atlantic County, experts say other parts of South Jersey could be good locations. The western portion of South Jersey, near Philadelphia and the Route 295/95 corridor, could be an ideal location, said Richard Perniciaro, director of the Center for Regional and Business Research at Atlantic Cape Community College.
“While this is not supposed to be a distribution center, it will certainly need to be near a labor supply that our area does not have at this time,” Perniciaro said. “It would take a personal intervention of someone that has a relationship with a higher-up at Amazon to even have them look here. Bader Field? The racetrack area? Best bets, but still no international airport and no population critical mass.”
Lauren Moore, executive director of the Atlantic County Economic Alliance, said both Bader Field in Atlantic City and Stockton Aviation Park in Egg Harbor Township have been mentioned as possible sites in preliminary discussion. The alliance does not have authority over either site, Moore said.
“We are going to put our best competitive foot forward,” Moore said.
Bids for the projects are due Oct. 19, with a formal announcement on the location expected next year.
Amazon wants to be near a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people; be able to attract top technical talent; be within 45 minutes of an international airport; have direct access to mass transit; and be able to expand that headquarters to as much as 8 million square feet in the next decade.
Levinson said Atlantic County is ideally situated near Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C., has an international airport, the Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Technical Center, a Stockton University and “a diverse population, quality workforce and outstanding recreation amenities.”
Levinson also cited the county’s status as “one of six national test sites for unmanned aircraft systems,” a fact he said should interest Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who introduced the Prime Air project in 2013 to implement drone delivery service.
Staff Writer R.J. Liberatore contributed to this report.