Ohio leaders want to deliver on Amazon headquarters bids

By Dan Sewell - Associated Press

CINCINNATI (AP) — From hurricane-free weather to cool new brew houses, Ohio leaders are promising Amazon they can deliver what the e-commerce giant would like for its second headquarters.

Sales points highlight affordable housing in trendy neighborhoods and safety from natural calamity as the state and its major cities vie with competitors from across the country salivating over the potential boost of hosting the company and some 50,000 workers. Seattle-based Amazon has invited bids that are due Thursday.

Ohio’s congressional delegation has made a bipartisan pitch, writing to Amazon CEO Jeffrey Bezos touting the state’s central location, higher education, workforce, transportation and “business-friendly” environment without singling out one Buckeye locale as tops. Outside handicappers ranking the national field haven’t been giving Ohio good odds of winning the race. Airport connections, mass transit and pools of tech talent are among areas where some Ohio cities fall short to national competitors.

Cincinnati leaders have said they will focus on a regional approach that includes northern Kentucky. That offers an expanded population area of some 3 million people from Dayton to Cincinnati and along the Ohio River, several large universities and the international airport in Hebron, Kentucky.

“There are assets on all sides of the river, which we constantly market as one, and this will be no different,” said Erin Rolfes, spokeswoman for REDI (Regional Economic Development Initiative) Cincinnati. She wouldn’t discuss details, citing competitive concerns.

She wouldn’t go into details on the planned bid for competitive reasons. Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat, has pointed to revitalization of the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and downtown developments that have attracted young professionals to a city that already hosts corporate headquarters such as consumer products maker Procter & Gamble Co. and the Kroger Co. grocery chain.

A Columbus official said Amazon won’t have to worry about hurricanes, earthquakes, or severe winter storms in Ohio’s capital, which has plenty of transportation connections and what he called “mission-critical assets.”

“Our idea of a disaster is when something bad happens up at Ohio Stadium in a game that doesn’t go the way we want it to,” said Steve Schoeny, development director for Columbus, referring to the Ohio State University Buckeyes’ football team.

Cleveland leaders, meanwhile, have noted that they were the surprise winner of the national competition to land the 2016 Republican National Convention and they think they can rock their way to another upset win for Amazon.

And don’t count out the Mahoning Valley in northeast Ohio; the Warren Tribune Chronicle reports that included in the region’s pitch is an offer by the Cafaro Co. to sell more than 100 acres to Amazon for $1 and to provide $20 million in seed money for a headquarters next to the Eastwood Mall Complex.

Amazon came up during a recent Cincinnati mayoral debate, with Cranley’s challenger, Democratic councilwoman Yvette Simpson, zinging him for not doing more to build mass transit such as the fledgling downtown streetcar system.

“They’re (Amazon) looking for a city of the future, the type of city I want to build as your next mayor,” Simpson said.

Cranley, though, insisted Cincinnati can lure Amazon: “We’re going to reach for the stars.”

By Dan Sewell

Associated Press