Erie County (and everyone else) has eye on enormous Amazon HQ2 prize

Sep 8, 2017

Erie County is competing in one of the great corporate gold rushes: the fight to grab Amazon's new $5 billion corporate home and potentially 50,000 jobs averaging $100,000 a person.

Amazon is overcrowded in its Seattle base among many high-tech companies and is looking for new frontiers. Its new HQ2 could be in either the United States or Canada, with Toronto widely mentioned as a favorite.

This would be one of the great economic development prizes because it involves so many jobs with a high-profile company, essentially an affirmation of some geographic area. Amazon wants land near an international airport, transit readiness for workers and lots of government subsidy cash.

Erie County Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo said this area has the right stuff.

"They're starting from scratch. They are looking for a community with about a million people or more in the metro area, a community that thinks big, has the infrastructure, is close to international borders and, really, people that can work for them in these high-tech jobs," Lorigo said. "We have that here."

Landing Amazon would be transformational, he said.

"For years, before I even got to the Legislature, I was talking about how many of my friends had to leave the area for jobs because there were no jobs here," Lorigo continued. "Now, we've built up all of these other attractions and assets and what we really need are the jobs. 50,000 jobs in a high-tech facility like Amazon would be revolutionary."

Lorigo said he already has pitched Erie County in a letter to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The applications have to be in by month and a decision will be made next year.

Albany understands how Amazon bargains, since the company is currently building a $100 million fulfillment complex in New York City, including an $18 million subsidy to obtain more than 2,200 jobs.

"The Governor and the state threw money at Tesla and Solar City, an unproven organization," Lorigo said. "Amazon has been around for decades. They're a proven entity. They're a good corporate consumer or corporate entity. That's a safer bet than anything else."