1. Business

Trigaux: Tampa joins most competitive pursuit — to capture Amazon's new HQ2

Tampa will throw its name into the hat to pitch Amazon that its "HQ2" or second headquarters should be built in Tampa Bay, 
Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. President Craig Richard said in an interview Friday. Amazon issued an RFP (request for proposal) from major metros and Tampa, in coordination with the state jobs agency Enterprise Florida, will respond. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Sep. 8, 2017

Amazon HQ2 will be Amazon's second headquarters in North America. We expect to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs – it will be a full equal to our current campus in Seattle. In addition to Amazon's direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community. from Amazon's website.


Stretch the imagination a bit. What if Amazon chose Tampa for its HQ2 location?

Gotta think big to get big. The good news is Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. CEO Craig Richard says Tampa Bay meets the key criteria of Amazon's hunt for a second headquarters. Access to a good airport. A metro area topping a million people. Nearby universities of quality. And tech talent.

"On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 13 for us," says Richard in his enthusiastic style. "We have read Amazon's RFP (request for proposal) and it sounds like it was written for us."

But in this extraordinary case, is a "13" effort enough? The desire of metros across this country (Canada, too) to seal this deal is palpable. Conversations similar to mine with Richard are taking place in dozens of major metros. What aspiring U.S. metro would not want to land Amazon HQ2 for one of the fastest growing, innovative companies on the planet that is run by one of the world's richest billionaires?

Richard acknowledges the competition will be fierce; the odds long. "Many other metros will think this RFP was written for them," he acknowledged. And that no doubt includes other metro areas in Florida.

Outside the Sunshine State, the response to Amazon's HQ2 pitch has been broad and deep. "Let the Bidding Begin" screams Friday's page-wide New York Times business headline. "Central Virginia fills the bill," reads the headline in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Toronto Mayor John Tory insists his city can deliver for Amazon. Atlanta "abuzz over Amazon HQ2" reads the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Albany, Austin. Baltimore. Boston. Chicago. Dallas. Denver, Kansas City. Memphis. Milwaukee. Minneapolis/St. Paul… It would be more space efficient to list metros not keen on capturing Amazon's second HQ.

Under the RFP, competing metros have about six weeks to convince Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his executive team why their locations are best. "We encourage cities to think big and be creative," Amazon states.

Tampa, is all in, says Richard. So is its state-run partner, Enterprise Florida.

"Florida will aggressively pursue this opportunity," Nathan Edwards, Enterprise Florida spokesman, said Friday. "As the most strategic location on the eastern seaboard for global commerce and with a strong workforce and several locations meeting Amazon's needs, Florida is an ideal location for HQ2."

The great Amazon opportunity comes uncomfortably soon after the Florida Legislature eviscerated Enterprise Florida this past spring as an ineffective provider of "corporate welfare" and gutted its budget and limited its job recruiting tools.

RELATED COVERAGE: Who wins on Enterprise Florida? Money stays but Corcoran says 'it's toast'.

Richard says Enterprise Florida still has strong people who know what they are doing in pitches even as big as romancing Amazon. But does it have the depth of incentives that many other metros in other states will be laying at Amazon's feet?

It may not hurt Tampa's cause that Bezos grew up in South Florida and is at least familiar with the state. Amazon certainly knows Central Florida, having opened extensive distribution/fulfillment centers in Ruskin and Lakeland in recent years.

Perhaps there's also a certain yin-yang thing to balancing Amazon's headquarters in the far northwest corner of the country with an HQ2 in the far southeast.

To the Tampa/Hillsborough EDC's credit, it is rallying to make its pitch to Amazon even as a very dangerous Hurricane Irma is approaching South Florida and expected to plow up the middle of the Florida peninsula in the coming days.

A veteran of economic development wars in other major cities, Richard has wooed heavyweights before. He competed for Atlanta when GE said it was relocating from Connecticut (it chose Boston). He pursued Boeing for Dallas when the airplane giant said it would move from Seattle (it picked Chicago). And he successfully helped keep Exxon/Mobil in Houston when it considered moving to Virginia.

At first glance, the most obvious site in Tampa Bay to land Amazon's second headquarters would be Water Street Tampa. At $3 billion (and counting) in an urban setting, the bold 50-plus acre development seems to radiate an aura of innovation that could appeal to the likes of Amazon. Besides, Strategic Property Partners, the firm behind the development, is a joint venture between Tampa Bay Lighting owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment, the personal money arm of billionaire Bill Gates. And Gates, like Bezos, is based in Seattle.

RELATED COVERAGE: Water Street Tampa unveils video showing downtown's transformation.

Perhaps Bezos could appreciate what Gates apparently sees in the future of Tampa.

On the other hand, Amazon's HQ2 wants space — lots of it — and may not find Water Street Tampa roomy enough, no matter how high an Amazon headquarters building could be built.

Plenty of other compelling places in this metro could also appeal to the likes of Amazon. But the formidable disrupter of retailing can afford to be picky, and will be. Metros that are truly serious will be throwing everything at the company, from beautiful land and innovative designs to promises of top tech talent.

And incentives. Lots of incentives.

Is it worth it? Amazon estimates its investments in Seattle from 2010 through 2016 resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city's economy. Every dollar invested by Amazon in Seattle generated an additional $1.40 for the city's economy overall.

"This is the trophy deal of the decade as far as I can tell," Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, the non-partisan research group that tracks economic development, told the New York Times.

Does Tampa Bay have a chance for HQ2? Why not? It's just like the recent Powerball lotto prize that prompted millions of Americans to buy tickets. You can't win if you don't play. Somebody eventually did win the Powerball. And somebody will eventually nab Amazon HQ2.

Contact Robert Trigaux at Follow @venturetampabay.


  1. The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, is in the center of legal a rent disagreement. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TIMES]
    The beer hall operators’ lawyers argue they weren’t properly notified when legal action began.
  2. Should we stop changing our clocks twice a year? CHARLES KRUPA  |  AP
    The Republican senator, along with Sen. Rick Scott, introduced the Sunshine Protection Act earlier this year.
  3. The Aldi store located on 1551 34th St N. in St. Petersburg features the store look being deployed across the country. JONES, OCTAVIO   |  Tampa Bay Times
    The store had been closed for about two months during its makeover.
  4. The view looking northeast from the balcony of the penthouse at One St. Petersburg that was flipped for a $1 million profit in October. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    October home sales included one of the priciest condos ever in the Tampa Bay area.
  5. Tampa resident, Ann Turner Cook and Mike Dermo, vice president of field sales for Gerber Products Co., celebrate Gerber's 80th anniversary at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay in 2008. Times (2008)
    Widely known for appearing on baby-food jars, Cook taught for 26 years before retiring to become a mystery writer.
  6. Zum driver Stacey Patrick, right, waves goodbye to student Saahas Kohli, left, and his mother, Alpa Kohli, obscured behind her son, as he returns home from school in Saratoga, Calif. A handful of ride-hailing companies have surfaced that allow parents to order rides, and in some cases childcare, for children using smartphone apps. The promise is alluring at a time when children are expected to accomplish a dizzying array of extracurricular activities and the boundaries between work and home have blurred. But the companies face hurdles convincing parents that a stranger hired by a ride-hailing company is trustworthy enough to ferry their most precious passengers. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) BEN MARGOT  |  AP
    Ride-hailing companies resolve a dilemma many parents face: how to pick up your kids from school while holding a full-time job.
  7. Integrity Express Logistics, which is expanding its Tampa office, matches freight with trucks to haul it in 48 states and Canada. (DANNY JOHNSTON | Associated Press) DANNY JOHNSTON  |  AP
    The company plans to hire at least 50 more employees and to spend $230,000 on renovations and new office equipment.
  8. Bins filled with products move on conveyor belts at the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Ruskin. Amazon just announced it will open a similar center in Auburndale, Fla. (Times | 2018) Tampa Bay Times
    The new center will span more than 1 million square feet and be No. 11 in the state.
  9. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times
A shot taken on June 4, 2019 during the 12-week demolition of the Harborview Center which began in April on the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue in downtown Clearwater. The project is a key part of the city's roughly $64-million Imagine Clearwater waterfront redevelopment project. Will residents move downtown once it is done? DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    “It’s our biggest challenge,” one city official said.
  10. Although people with insurance pay nothing when they get their flu shot, many don’t realize that their insurers foot the bill — and that those companies will recoup their costs eventually.
    Federal law requires health insurers to cover the vaccines at no charge to patients, but the companies eventually recoup the cost through higher premiums.