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Wisconsin Cities Look To House Next Amazon Headquarters

Amazon Seeks Second Headquarters In North America

Mark Lennihan/AP Photo

Add Madison to what could be a long list of cities vying to become the location for Amazon’s second headquarters and up to 50,000 jobs. At a press conference Friday, Mayor Paul Soglin called the prospect of having Amazon locate its $5 billion headquarters in Madison “very exciting.”

“I think this is the kind of company that would find Madison a great home. The existence of Epic Systems certainly helps us in terms of the culture,” Soglin said.

Competition is expected to be be stiff. Soglin estimates as many as 70 metro areas could offer proposals to the online retail giant by the Oct. 19 deadline. But Madison won’t be offering $3 billion in tax breaks Wisconsin is proposing to give Foxconn.

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“I am not opposed to having appropriate and reasonable financial incentives, whether it’s for Foxconn in southeastern Wisconsin, Foxconn in Madison, or Amazon in Madison or Milwaukee. But I hope we understand two points: one, it has to be reasonable, and two, these businesses are looking for other things.”

Amazon’s call for proposals highlights a need for strong technical talent, optimal fiber connectivity and a metro area of more than 1 million people. Madison’s population is a fraction of that, but Soglin said their proposal to Amazon will include eight counties: Dane, Sauk, Columbia, Dodge, Jefferson, Iowa, Rock and Green.

The company will consider greenfield sites, infill sites and existing buildings. Soglin said the old Oscar Mayer site is a possibility along with locations on East Washington Avenue.

Amazon is also interested in how its employees will get around. The company wants cities that have sidewalks, bike lanes, buses and light rail and trains.

“We believe our existing transit and bicycling routes as well as automobile access gives us a great opportunity to succeed,” Soglin said. But he expressed dismay over a state budget proposal that would prevent municipalities from condemning property for right of way in transportation projects. “So we’ll be able to get roads and highways into (a proposed site) but we won’t be able to get sidewalks and bicycle right of way if condemnation is necessary,” he said.

Amazon also is seeking access to an international airport. Dane County only has regional service. Soglin said international flights are available out of Detroit, Chicago and Minneapolis.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also indicated interest, writing a letter to Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, on Thursday, the same day the company sought proposals.