Westchester County Enters Amazon Sweepstakes Vying for E-Commerce Giant’s Second Headquarters

John Jordan | September 2017

Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino had a drone deliver his speech in an Amazon box at the press event in front of the Westchester County Center.

WHITE PLAINS—Westchester County has entered a contest that promises a huge payout—thousands of high paying, new jobs and billions of dollars in investment.

Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino announced on Sept. 26th that the county would be submitting a proposal to Amazon for the e-commerce giant’s second corporate headquarters, a deal that could bring 50,000 jobs and a total investment of $5 billion to the region.

Westchester County joined a long list of municipalities in the Northeast and across the country vying for Amazon’s second headquarters, dubbed Amazon HQ2, which would initially involve a 500,000 square-foot facility but is expected to grow to 8 million square feet of space. Amazon issued an RFP (request for proposals) for the second headquarters in early September.

“Westchester has everything Amazon is looking for and more: talent, accessibility, quality of life, value and locations, locations, locations,” said Astorino. “Amazon laid out the criteria and Westchester matches them, making Westchester the smart choice for Amazon.”

Astorino, who had a drone deliver his speech in an Amazon box at the press event in front of the Westchester County Center, said that the county would offer Amazon a number of possible locations, including vacant buildings once occupied by IBM and PepsiCo in Somers, vacant office buildings along the I-287 corridor in White Plains and Harrison, as well as possible development sites in White Plains, New Rochelle and Mount Vernon.

Somers Town Supervisor Rick Morrissey said that the former IBM facility in Somers could provide Amazon with 1 million square feet of move-in-ready space, while PepsiCo’s former offices nearby could provide another 540,000 square feet of move-in-ready space.

The County Executive touted Westchester’s quality of life, transportation network, as well as its office space that is half the cost of New York City. He added that the county and its Industrial Development Agency are prepared to offer incentives to Amazon in connection with its headquarters requirement. The county’s Economic Development Department is also working with New York State’s Empire State Development “to ensure that we have the most competitive package available,” he said.

The ESD is offering assistance to prospective municipal or county bidders for the Amazon headquarters requirement. An ESD spokesperson had no comment on the exact process or incentives that would be provided. ESD president, CEO and commissioner Howard Zemsky said in a prepared statement, “Amazon, with its significant footprint in New York State, knows first-hand that we have the infrastructure, business climate and workforce necessary for businesses to succeed. This project is a major opportunity and New Yorkers should know that we will be doing everything we can to attract Amazon HQ2—and 50,000 jobs—to the Empire State.”

It is believed New York City will be making a proposal, as well as the City of Buffalo and perhaps Albany and other eligible MSAs in New York State.

There have been a host of reports of other potential bidders for the requirement, including Chicago and New Jersey, for example.

Economic development officials in Westchester, New York State and elsewhere are under the gun with an Oct. 19th deadline to submit proposals. According to Amazon’s RFP, Amazon will  announce its winning selection sometime in 2018. New York State has hired Newmark Knight Frank as a consultant on the Amazon HQ2 requirement, Real Estate In-Depth has learned.

Astorino said that Westchester fills all of Amazon’s key requirements including being situated in a metropolitan area with more than 1 million people, having a stable business environment, offering both urban and suburban locations, possessing a talented workforce, providing access to mass transit and major highways as well as being within 45 minutes of an international airport.

In September, Amazon announced plans to build a $100-million fulfillment center in Staten Island and also reported a lease deal for 360,000 square feet in Manhattan. Amazon said the Staten Island fulfillment center would employ 2,200 operations workers, while the new office at 5 Manhattan West would create more than 2,000 new jobs in the next three years.

Astorino said the major investments by Amazon in Staten Island and Manhattan bodes well for New York State and possibly Westchester County. “They are looking for their second world headquarters and what better places than the two coasts. They have one headquarters in Downtown Seattle and they have an area in New York City and now they can have a very large location in an area that is half the cost of New York City that offers everything they are looking for, especially a talent pool they could attract as employees, which I think gives us a leg up,” he said.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth