Saguaro cactus to remind Amazon why Tucson is ‘prime’ location for HQ2

Economic Development | 13 Sep, 2017 |

The saguaro cactus is the iconic cactus of the Sonoran Desert known for how large it grows and how long it lives, which can grow to over 40 feet tall and live for several hundred years. Southern Arizona, in particularly Tucson, hopes Amazon will do the same here.

Video by Jesse A. Millard

Today in Tucson, Sun Corridor Inc., Southern Arizona’s economic development group, loaded a 21-foot saguaro cactus on a flat-bed truck today to deliver to Jeff Bezos at Amazon, in a bid to bring Amazon’s highly-coveted second headquarters to Tucson and Southern Arizona, which is home to millions of Saguaros.

Amazon announced late last week that it is planning to build a second corporate headquarters location in North America. Dubbed “Project Amazon HQ2,” Amazon says that it is considering metropolitan areas with populations of more than one million people, will hire as many as 50,000 new full-time employees over the next 10-15 years, and invest over $5 billion in capital. The new location will include a site that is urban/suburban and require 8-million square feet of space.

“We want to make sure Mr. Bezos and his team notice us and send a message of ‘we have room for you to grow here for the long term’ – nothing signifies that better than a saguaro,” says Joe Snell, president and CEO of Sun Corridor Inc. “We’ll work with Governor Ducey and the Arizona Commerce Authority closely to submit a strong case.”

Together with its state, regional and local partners, Sun Corridor is currently working to gather the necessary information and data for submittal. The Request For Proposal is due October 19 with a decision to be made in 2018.

“I think when Tucson made the short list for the Tesla gigafactory, that woke a lot of people up as to the potential this community has,” said City of Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. “We have a strong tech workforce and an active entrepreneurial ecosystem. We’re a center for trade, transportation and logistics. Plus, we have an outstanding quality of life. I don’t see any other city that has our exact set of advantages.”

Those advantages enabled Tucson to beat out several cities for Caterpillar’s new $43 million Surface Mining and Technology Division headquarters, which will bring 600 executive jobs to Downtown Tucson during the next five years.

Multi-million dollar projects or in Project Amazon HQ2’s case, a $5 billion project, requires the support and coordination of a diverse cross-section of disciplines from community and industry leaders both locally and statewide.

That includes backing from the local utility provider, which Project Amazon HQ2 has in Southern Arizona.

Dave Hutchens, chairman of Sun Corridor Inc. and president and CEO of UNS Energy Corp., Tucson Electric Power and UniSource Energy Services, cited, TEP’s commitment to providing Amazon with affordable, reliable and sustainable power solutions for any and all of its needs.

At the county level, Sharon Bronson, chair of the Pima County Board of Supervisors, thinks Pima County is an ideal location for HQ2. “We have the land, workforce, logistics and the enterprising and entrepreneurial can-do attitude that innovative world-leader in business needs,” she said.

The details of Tucson’s RFP for Project Amazon HQ2 remain to be seen but it will surely require incentives to compete with other RFP bids from other more prominent metro areas like Austin, Boston or Dallas.

That won’t deter Southern Arizona’s business leaders from making their case to Bezos and Amazon though.

“Tucson can play at this level,” said Fletcher McCusker, chairman of the Rio Nuevo Revitalization District. “We just wanted to make sure our friends in Seattle noticed us, and provide a good home to our landmark cactus, which I expect will become Seattle’s biggest tourist attraction.”

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