Like Everywhere Else, Kansas City Wants To Be Amazon’s Second Home

Sep 7, 2017

Kansas City is launching an effort to be the home to Amazon’s second corporate headquarters.

Amazon plans to plow more $5 billion into building another headquarters that will be an equal to the current one in Seattle. The internet retailer plans to employ some 50,000 people with average salaries topping $100,000 at what it is calling “HQ2.”

That many high-paying jobs has Kansas City and dozens of other cities across North America chomping at the bit.

“As soon as we heard of this announcement, we already had set to work to develop a strong bid for the Amazon HQ2,” says Chris Hernandez, communications director for Kansas City.

The city stands to gain a lot if it is the winning bid. There’s the $5 billion dollars in investment and the 50,000 highly paid workers, but Amazon points to a number of other positive effects. The company fills 233,000 hotel nights in Seattle each year and estimates its investments have created another 53,000 jobs since it opened its downtown Seattle headquarters in 2010.

Kansas City meets Amazon’s basic criteria with plenty of potential sites for a new campus, but city leaders think Kansas City has a lot to offer Amazon.

“Kansas City has a great workforce and an excellent cost of living that would be attractive to any national company,” said City Manager Troy Schulte in a written statement.

Schulte also highlights the city’s tech and Smart City infrastructure as well as a thriving arts scene and, of course, barbecue.

That sentiment was echoed by PC Magazine, which put Kansas City at the top of its list for Amazon HQ2.  The article calls Kansas City “possibly the nation’s most underrated tech hub” and points to Google Fiber, tech startups and affordability as favorable to the city’s chances.

The one downside? Kansas City International Airport doesn’t have that many international flights — something Amazon is looking for.

Hernandez says even on that front the city is moving in the right direction.

“Certainly if we get the affirmative vote from our resident in November (on a proposed on a new single terminal at KCI), those would be strong signals to Amazon as well that Kansas City is a city on the move.”

Still not all tech publications were so bullish on Kansas City. GeekWire didn’t include KC on its list of potential sites, leaning toward bigger cities like Toronto, Boston and Chicago.

Amazon plans to open the first phase of the project in 2019 with at least a half million square foot building. From there, it could take more than a decade to build and fill the planned 8 million square foot campus.  

Proposals are due Oct. 19. Schulte has charged city staff to work with the Economic Development Corporation to create a bid with partners across the city. 

Maria Carter is the news director at KCUR 89.3