Amazon tours Washington, Maryland and Virginia in search for new headquarters

Washington Post

Officials from Amazon.com toured sites in Washington, Montgomery County and northern Virginia last week — the latest sign that the tech giant is seriously considering adding a second headquarters with as many as 50,000 jobs to the Washington area, according to officials in all three jurisdictions.

There are at least nine sites in the Washington area proposed for the tech giant's expansion, dubbed HQ2. Officials from the firm toured sites in northern Virginia early in the week, Washington in the middle and Montgomery County at the end, according to the officials, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed agreements not to disclose company information.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, D, said he had breakfast with Amazon officials Wednesday morning in northern Virginia. The governor left the tours to economic development staff, which is pitching sites in Alexandria and Arlington plus the Center for Innovative Technology campus on the border of Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

"We've had some really good discussions with Amazon," Northam said Friday in Richmond, Va. "They were up in northern Virginia Monday and Tuesday. We showed them four sites up there. I was very proud of my cabinet members and [the Virginia Economic Development Partnership] and I think that Amazon was impressed with the presentation we gave them."

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, D, had dinner with Amazon representatives Wednesday night, according to District officials. Bowser has proposed four fast-growing neighborhoods in the city, behind Union Station in Northeast, near U Street in Northwest and straddling the Anacostia River in Southeast. A fourth proposal calls for razing and rezoning a large parcel near Capitol Hill and RFK Stadium, dubbed Hill East.

In Maryland, Amazon.com is considering land around the White Flint Metro station, including the former White Flint Mall site on Rockville Pike, according to officials familiar with the Montgomery County proposal.

Three of the final 20 locations on Amazon's list are in the Washington area, fueling speculation that the company founded by Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post, will make its second home in the area. Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has proposed a $5 billion incentive package to lure the firm while Washington and Virginia officials have made their own lucrative offers that they have not disclosed.

On Friday, Northram declined to give any details on incentives, but said the state's pitch centered around workforce development, inclusivity and transportation, along with quality of life.

Whether or not Amazon chooses a Washington-area location, its growing interest coincides with what appears to be gathering momentum around a permanent funding solution for Metro. Bowser has been a stalwart supporter of a permanent solution and on Friday — while Amazon officials may have still been in town — Hogan announced an agreement with the Maryland legislature to provide an additional $150 million to the system.

"The governor is urging the General Assembly to immediately pass this legislation and get it to his desk," Hogan spokesperson Amelia Chasse told the Post last week. Hogan spokespersons did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Amazon.

Northram expressed optimism that Virginia legislative leaders would reach a Metro funding agreement soon as well. "I think that whether it's Amazon or any other business, we need to fix Metro, that's the bottom line," he said.

"The excitement and the possibility [of Amazon coming] is making good things happen for this region in regard to Metro, in regard to public-private cooperation, how to attract and retain workforce, how to improve quality of life and educational potential," said Bob Buchanan, chairman of the Montgomery County Economic Development Corp. "I think the fact that Maryland and Virginia are moving bills ahead to the extent that they are is an example of that."

Amazon plans to make a selection by the end of this year. It is seeking 8 million square feet of office space to grow into over 10 years or more, including 500,000 square feet beginning in 2019. Company representatives did not immediately return a request for comment.

The Post's Robert McCartney and Laura Vozzella contributed.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
70°