Monday September 18, 2017

Amazon's 2nd headquarters in Halifax? Mayor says city's worthy contender

Halifax mayor Mike Savage says the city's strength is their growth in recent years with the addition of companies like IBM and RBC. He hopes the city will be considered for Amazon's second headquarters.

Halifax mayor Mike Savage says the city's strength is their growth in recent years with the addition of companies like IBM and RBC. He hopes the city will be considered for Amazon's second headquarters. (CBC)

Listen 27:05

Earlier this month, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos put out the call looking for interested cities to play host to a second headquarter for the company.

Amazon says it will offer an investment of  $5 billion US and 50,000 new jobs.

Cities across North America jumped at the opportunity, including several Canadian cities.

"I think all all mayors of any city that consider themselves to be tech hubs would love to have a company like Amazon. That's just a fact of life," Halifax mayor Mike Savage tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"It would bring energy and a lot of people. It would certainly achieve growth and it gets attention — all of those things I think are enviable for any city. "

Savage knows it's a long shot, but he says "it's better than a 'no' shot."

Amazon has said it's looking for a city of at least one million people and while Halifax doesn't reach that number, Savage says, the province of Nova Scotia is about a million.

"For us it's a bit of a regional play but there isn't any city that ticks every single box that Amazon is looking for," he says.

"I think our strength is the fact that we've grown in recent years with the addition of companies like IBM and RBC choosing Halifax as a centre because of our tech talent, because of the number of young people we have who are educated and willing to work, and the high quality of life that we have here in Halifax, which I think rivals any city in North America."

If there's one city that knows a thing or two about what hosting an Amazon headquarters is like, it's Seattle. The northwestern U.S. city has been home to the company's global corporate headquarters since 1994.

And the city has been been one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. says Gregory Scruggs, a writer for Citiscope.

88396432

Amazon says its second headquarters will come with an investment of $5 billion US and 50,000 new jobs. (Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

Scruggs tells Tremonti what Amazon is looking for specifically is "an urban campus of up to eight million sq. ft. (743, 224 sq. metres)"

"So they'll certainly be looking for subsidized access to the available land and they will anticipate that this site is … mass transit ready."

He adds that if mass transit doesn't exist, building it as a public investment will mean taxpayers footing at least some part of that bill.

"I suspect they'll be at the more corporate level looking for some kind of tax breaks whether that's … not heavily taxing the income of their employees, or not heavily taxing the business that they are generating," Scruggs explains.

"Those kinds of subsidies that have become in my opinion a race to the bottom for cities and states across the U.S. as we try to win this beauty pageant for our corporate tenants."

Listen to the full segment near the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Manusha Janakiram, Ramraajh Sharvendiran and Halifax network producer Mary-Catherine McIntosh.