The Oct. 19 deadline to submit a proposal for College Park to host Amazon’s second headquarters is “putting massive pressure on all county resources,” a Prince George’s County official said.
“It is a ridiculous, insanely short deadline … but we are setting up in a war-room mentality to meet that deadline,” said David Iannucci, the economic advisor to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. “We are now in a mad dash to gather the comprehensive materials needed to respond to each of the [request for proposals] criteria.”
Amazon’s criteria includes a site with 100 acres of land, the ability to accommodate 8 million square feet of building space, mass transit on-site, close proximity to highways and international airports, sustainability potential and the ability to attract a millennial workforce, Iannucci said.
Amazon’s method for requesting applications was unusual in economic development circles, he said. There was no pre-selection process, so the county will have to face a large competition pool and cast a wider net with its application.
“Normally these processes are long and drawn out over a year or more, and usually kept quite confidential,” Iannucci said. “So, we’re all reacting to Amazon’s very different style of going public and seeing what they can get.”
Usually, a company would contact local officials in a municipality they would like to develop and notify them they had been included on a shortlist, Iannucci said. At that point, the officials would be prompted to gather information as requested, he added.
“A lot of times, people would find out they’ve been shortlisted without even knowing they were in a competition,” he said. “We do think this area will be as competitive as any other in the United States, but this will be hard. It will be a really difficult competition for sure.”
But looking at the assets of the D.C. metro area, which has a workforce of at least 2.7 million people and hosts Maryland’s flagship university, Iannucci said he feels the county’s bid will stack up well against the competition.
The potential benefits for Amazon to build in the county aren’t confined to the University of Maryland or the city, said university President Wallace Loh. This university’s strategic partnership with the University of Maryland, Baltimore, is also an asset, he said.
“I think the time has come where we have to think in metropolitan terms … we have to think in terms of the entire corridor, from Baltimore to College Park, connected by I-95,” Loh said. “It’s not just College Park, it’s not just Baltimore, but the barbell that connects the two. That, I am arguing, is why we stand a chance of winning the Super Bowl of economic development: [Amazon] HQ2.”
Ken Ulman, the College Park Foundation’s chief strategy officer for economic development, said the Discovery District could accommodate the full building space required by Amazon to host HQ2, Iannucci said. The District includes this university’s M Square Research Park, the Innovation District and the Metro-accessible community along River Road.
The county liked this university’s commitment, and also identified expansion opportunities for the College Park site near the Greenbelt Metro Station, Iannucci said.
“As the flagship university and one of the nation’s top public research institutions, we serve the entire state of Maryland and stand ready to play the best role possible to attract Amazon,” Ulman said in a statement.
The county considers Greenbelt one opportunity for expansion, alongside a second location around the New Carrollton Metro Station, said College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn.
“Both of those sites would be a huge benefit to College Park,” Wojahn said. “I’d hope Amazon would see the advantage in the proximity to the university, and having HQ2 in the Discovery District would jumpstart the innovation and entrepreneurship that’s going on at the university.”
Having the headquarters in College Park could cut down Route 1 traffic, Wojahn said, since more people would be inclined to commute using the College Park or Greenbelt metro stations. If Amazon did choose the city, the long-term benefits would outweigh any short-term challenges an influx of construction would have on traffic, housing or public utilities, he added.
“Things are happening at a rapid pace … but I think that demonstrates the level of buzz that College Park has,” Wojahn said. “We need to be diligent that we do build the infrastructure necessary, but I think so far we’ve been keeping up and having the Purple Line will certainly help.”
The site selection will be announced next year.