Within Metro Vancouver, the pursuit for Amazon’s HQ2 is being billed as the largest collaboration between a wide group of partners and stakeholders since the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Over one hundred cities and regions across North America have submitted a bid to become the home of Amazon’s second headquarters, and Vancouver is now officially one of them.
Vancouver Economic Commission (VEC) has confirmed that it has hand-delivered its bid package to Amazon in time for the submission deadline on October 19.
While some of the other cites have decided to release their Olympic-sized bid books for public viewing, the VEC says it has no immediate plans to do the same. Vancouver’s bid plans will not be released until a decision on the second home city has been announced by Amazon sometime in 2018.
“Out of respect for the RFP process, VEC and partners have opted to allow Amazon the courtesy of having first glance at the Vancouver region’s proposal,” reads a release issued this morning by the VEC.
Calgary’s bid is said to be over 200 pages long and includes a bid video, while Toronto’s publicized 185-page bid book outlines key themes and lays out 10 proposed sites across the Greater Toronto Area.
Proponents were asked to provide details on: sites, capital and operational costs, incentives, labour force, logistics, time to operations, cultural community fit, and community and qualify of life.
Here is what we know about Metro Vancouver’s bid so far:
1. It is a regional bid
While the VEC, an agency of the City of Vancouver, led the charge with the development and submission of the bid, it was a regional effort that encompassed other municipalities as well given the scope and size of Amazon’s requirements.
The BC government, the City of Vancouver, the City of Surrey and Metro Vancouver Regional District were all members of the VEC’s Steering Committee.
In its RFP, Amazon said HQ2 would be a $5-billion office complex that could grow to 8 million sq. ft. in size within a number of buildings and employ as many as 50,000 people in high-paying positions, with average annual salaries reaching over $100,000.
Suitable sites for such a development in Burnaby, New Westminster, Richmond, and Surrey – in addition to the primary Vancouver options – were included in the bid.
“The proposal further identified millions of square feet of space throughout the region to support Amazon’s identified 500,000 sq. ft. move-in needs on day one, and more than enough to meet the second and third phases of the project,” reads the release.
“With a compact, transit- and cycling-connected region, a world-class Port and the award-winning YVR – named North America’s best airport for eight years running – we know we have both the space and the connectivity that Amazon seeks.”
The provincial government supported the bid by offering $50,000 to help fund the creation of the bid plans. The committee had just six weeks to research, rally stakeholders together, and formulate their bid proposal, as Amazon launched the RFP process on September 7.
Other stakeholders in the bid include the City of Richmond, City of New Westminster, District of North Vancouver, City of Port Moody, BCIT, SFU, UBC, UVIC, Research Universities Council of BC, TransLink, BC HYDRO, BC Tech Association, Air Canada, Vancouver International Airport, Harbour Air, TELUS, and Shaw Communications.
2. No tax incentives proposed
The VEC says no cash, land, or additional tax incentives were included in the region’s bid plan. Amazon’s RFP suggested bids to include possible tax and land incentives that could be provided to the tech company.
“Rather than engaging in a ‘race to the bottom’ with cash incentives, the Project Execution Team presented a cohesive, comprehensive and compelling narrative that focuses on the built-in incentives of operating in and around the Vancouver region,” reads the release.
“This value proposition includes a highly competitive business environment featuring significant cost savings related to office real estate, health care, tax rates and labour.”
The VEC says these factors combined would allow Amazon to save tens of billions of dollars over a 10-year period when compared to several sites in the United States.
As well, Vancouver’s close proximity to the Seattle headquarters could reduce travel times by millions of hours. Both cities are just a 30-minute flight apart from each other, and various levels of governments, corporations, and organizations on both sides of the border have repeatedly committed to growing the economic linkages on the Cascadia Corridor.
“The region’s geographical proximity means unmatched accessibility,” the release continues. “Vancouver is one of the most multicultural urban centres in the world; we are a dynamic, inclusive innovation hub, with a cultural alignment with the values of Amazon’s native Seattle.”
A number of other bids in other jurisdictions are expected to offer generous tax incentives. For instance, New Jersey is offering up to $7 billion in incentives, which would raise the state’s cap on subsidies from $5,000 to $10,000 for every job Amazon creates.
3. Our rapidly growing tech industry
The bid emphasizes that Metro Vancouver’s post-secondary institutions are “world class in their capacity to deliver graduates required by our technology sector.”
Between 2014 and 2016, these institutions issued 30,000 STEM credentials and 13,000 business degrees.
Another advantage Vancouver has up its sleeve is its diverse workforce, backed up by a fast-track visa available to high tech workers coming to Canada.
“Vancouver’s robust talent pool is further bolstered by the highest rate of Provincial in-migration of any province in Canada. We further benefit from a progressive federal immigration framework, which includes the Global Skills Strategy, to assist top talent in making their move here,” the release adds.
“With an innovative, entrepreneurial, highly educated workforce, Vancouver offers a robust talent pool of work-ready graduates that will easily accommodate the 50,000 new workers that Amazon would look to hire over the course of the first 15 years of their HQ2 project.”
In a previous interview with Daily Hive, VEC Technology Sector Development Manager Sean Elbe said “the Vancouver story is much bigger in terms of a bid for Amazon than simply head office and software development.
“[I’m] trying to tell a bigger story about Vancouver opportunity that includes digital entertainment and film and television… Vancouver’s incredibly competitive on a global scale when it comes to attracting companies like Amazon.”
Even if the the pursuit for Amazon proves to be unsuccessful, the bid effort has created a template for the VEC to use for future opportunities to attract other companies.
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With files from Jenni Sheppard