Albuquerque sells sunshine, trying to lure new Amazon HQ
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN
Oct. 18, 2017
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico might not have the most money to offer Amazon as it decides where to put a second headquarters, but officials say nearly limitless sunshine, hazard-free weather and a diverse population should make the state competitive.
The e-commerce giant has set Thursday as the deadline for bids from Albuquerque and dozens of other cities competing to lure Amazon. The company is promising $5 billion of investment and 50,000 jobs over the next decade and a half.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry has already pointed to the city's 310 days a year of sunshine in a letter to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Berry's chief of staff, Gilbert Montano, said the city has been laying the groundwork to attract big employers like Amazon and build entrepreneurial opportunities with investments in the workforce and infrastructure.
Montano said Tuesday that Albuquerque should be a major contender — confirming that the city will submit a proposal that includes what he called some creative real estate solutions focused on a downtown area that city officials say is undergoing a renaissance.
"We're ready for the opportunity, and our residents are excited about the prospect of Amazon's phenomenal career opportunities," Montano said in a statement.
Montano did not offer specifics, but he mentioned a competition underway to change Albuquerque's skyline with a towering state-of-the-art space for offices, retail and living in the heart of downtown.
Just to the south, he says the complex of steel and glass that make up the historic rail yards is another property that would work for Amazon.
Due to nondisclosure agreements, the city is keeping quiet about what kind of tax breaks and other financial incentives it may offer. But officials with the state Economic Development Department and local business groups say it has become a statewide effort to put New Mexico on Amazon's radar.
"We don't have the checkbook, if that's what you want to call it, that Illinois or whomever — pick a state — has. It's going to be the total package," said Matt Geisel, the state economic development secretary. "New Mexico is a great place to do business and it's a great place to live. What we offer is unique and compelling and you layer those things up."
Geisel, who moved to New Mexico years ago as part of a corporate relocation program, opted to stay at the end of his stint and he said the same has been true of many other workers recruited to the state.
While quality of life means different things to different people, he said New Mexico has food, brew and art scenes as good as anywhere plus year-round affordable outdoor recreation, short commute times and plentiful blue skies.
"Sunsets and vistas aren't going to win the project, but it does definitely throw a little green chile salsa on our overall offering," Geisel said.
On a more serious note, the Albuquerque mayor and others say the region boasts a talented labor pool with a significant number of people who have doctorate degrees — most in the science and technology fields.
New Mexico is home to two national laboratories, military research installations, the nation's first purpose-build commercial spaceport and one of the world's premier astronomical radio observatories.
Add to that ethnic diversity that aligns with Amazon's corporate values, Berry said, calling it one of the greatest strengths. New Mexico is one of only a handful of minority-majority states.
"At its core, the city is both attractive and scrappy and is rising to the top of its game," Berry wrote in his letter. "Amazon can be the catalyst to propel our city forward."