Why NJ municipalities say, ‘Amazon HQ2 should come here’

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

From the demolished Riverfront State Prison to a park’s June ribbon-cutting, Camden may unlock what it considers the best option for 162 waterfront, Philadelphia skyline acres: Amazon’s second corporate headquarters.

“We think we’re the prime location for Amazon,” said Camden County Freeholder Louis Cappelli.

Camden is counting on a lot of competition in North America and North Jersey.

“We have this piece of property which is bigger than what they’re looking for. It has views that nobody else in the world has,” said Bayonne Mayor James Davis.

Davis says the 200-acre vacant Military Ocean Terminal could be “Amazon on the Hudson,” or HQ2 as it’s called.

“You’re going to come underneath the Verrazzano Bridge, which is the gateway to America, you’ll see Amazon before you see Lady Liberty,” said Davis.

Both Newark and Jersey City say they’ll plunge into the pool of plans to attract Amazon. And why not, given what it could mean. Amazon says it will invest more than $5 billion in construction; bring 50,000 high-paying and high-tech jobs at a second headquarters equal to its Seattle one which transformed the city’s downtown; and add $38 billion to the local economy where each of those dollars generated another $1.40.

“Once they’re here, or wherever they are, they’re going to be a game changer for whatever region they’re in,” said Cappelli.

Two weeks ago, Amazon put out an RFP, or request for proposals, and listed some ideal requirements. It wants HQ2 in a metro area within 30-miles of a million-plus, highly educated people; within 45 minutes of an international airport and one to two miles of major highways; access to mass transit; a half-million square feet for starters, eventually going up to 8-million square feet; and a pedestrian-friendly area with 100 acres, expandable for development.

“When I read what Mr. Bezos is looking for in a second headquarters, he was screaming out to me that he wants to come to Bayonne,” said Davis.

“What I’m hoping is that Amazon takes a look at this and says, ‘You know what, we can have a real impact in a city that needs help,'” said Cappelli.

A Los Angeles Times columnist called Amazon’s approach, “arrogant” and a grab at “maximum public handouts. That would be exactly the wrong outcome, from the standpoint of public welfare. Rather than be offered bribes to move its headquarters into a community, Amazon should be made to pay for the privilege.”

“I don’t see it that way. I think Amazon is in business to make money,” said Cappelli.

Guadalupe Family Services, along with its partners, has been on the forefront of rooting out crime and poverty in North Camden. It welcomes the enthusiasm for HQ2, but with caution.

“The worry for a lot of residents is that if Amazon comes here, what does that mean for the housing market? What does that mean for our neighborhood? Am I going to be pushed out?” asked Tim Gallagher, licensed social worker for the Guadalupe Family Services.

Amazon insists on a business-friendly environment. Does New Jersey meet that with its high insurance rates and high taxes?

“I’m sure the state of New Jersey itself is going to put a package together as far as incentives,” said Davis.

New Jersey’s Economic Development Authority has been soliciting plans from all New Jersey counties to send to Amazon “the strongest possible proposal.”

Choose New Jersey says, “Together with the state’s powerful incentives and responsive government, New Jersey has a compelling case to make …”

Camden no doubt will be among the thousands of communities that will offer proposals to Amazon. The deadline is Oct. 19. The company says it will choose a site next year.