If you were a local leader with your eye on the future, what would you do to attract 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment to your city? If the frenzied bidding war kicked off by Amazon's announcement that it's looking for a location for a second headquarters is anything to go by, the answer is nearly anything.
Final bids are due into Amazon on Thursday, but more than 50 cities have already declared their intention to vie for the prize. Most seem to be touting some combination of available real estate, tax breaks, skilled workers, infrastructure, and quality of life advantages, but a few are getting markedly more creative.
While the final bids are certain to offer an incredible buffet of as-yet-to-be-revealed sweeteners, incentives, and PR ploys, here are some of the crazier maneuvers eager cities have already used to catch Amazon's eye.
1. A giant cactus from Tucson.
In a sea of bids, how do you get the point across that your city offers wide open spaces and all the necessary build blocks to grow? Tucson decided to say it with cacti.
"Cards are a bit old-fashioned for a company devoted to innovative new technologies, so Tucson decided to make its point with a 21-foot saguaro cactus, delivered to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos," reports GeekWire. Does it bode well for Tucson's bid that the cactus ended up being donated to a museum as per the tweet below? You be the judge.
2. New Jersey goes big on tax breaks.
Cacti are admittedly cool looking, but New Jersey is known more for directness than desert flora. No wonder then that the state's governor, Chris Christie, opted to get to the heart of the matter and skip the attention-grabbing gifts. His state is promising a jaw-dropping $7 billion in tax breaks if Amazon decides to locate in Newark.
3. Amazon HQ located in Amazon, Georgia.
A massive new Amazon HQ will no doubt bring massive changes to whatever city hosts it. Stonecrest, Georgia, is asking: wouldn't it just be easier to start from scratch and build your own city instead? "The City of Stonecrest, Ga. has approved a plan to carve out a 345-acre stretch of land inside the town to give Amazon its own city if it wins HQ2," notes GeekWire. Amazon is even being invited to call the newly minted town after itself.
"There are several major U.S. cities that want Amazon, but none has the branding opportunity we are now offering this visionary company," Mayor Jason Lary told the Journal-Constitution. It's a bold gesture, but "a bit of a hail mary," GeekWire points out. "Stonecrest's population is roughly half of what Amazon is seeking: metropolitan areas with at least 1 million residents."
4. Another build-to-suit offer from Frisco.
In further bad news for small Stonecrest, it's not even the only contender offering to let Amazon essentially build it's own city. "Our city's only about 60 percent built out, so we've got a lot of available land where we can build to suit," Jeff Cheney, the mayor of Frisco, Texas, told The New York Times. "We play to win. We're innovators. We're forward thinkers, and we're serious."
5. Dallas is building a bullet train.
Say your city is already thinking of building a high-speed train to another hub. Why not dress up this existing infrastructure project as an impressive perk for a certain massive company on the hunt for a new home? That is apparently the thinking of Dallas.
The city is proposing that Amazon HQ2 "would surround a proposed station for a bullet train, which Dallas magazine reports is expected to cost $15 billion. If fully approved by the city, the 240-mile line would transport passengers from Houston to Dallas in 90 minutes," reports Business Insider. And no loss for Dallas if Amazon picks another location. The plan "is likely to happen with or without Amazon. Developers hope to start construction on the development by late 2018," BI adds.