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Making a pitch: Possible locations for Amazon's HQ2 site

Posted at 7:37 PM, Nov 07, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-07 20:37:56-05

With more than 230 communities vying for Amazon's second headquarters, it is hard to stand out. But Southeast Wisconsin is working together to show its a perfect fit. 

"We've got a great story to tell with what's happening in Downtown Milwaukee and places like this in Waukesha County." 

Tim Casey is the Director of Economic Development for the Waukesha County Center for Growth. He says this area would be a great fit for Amazon. 

"We're 15 minutes from Downtown Milwaukee and about an hour from Madison," Casey said. "We're in a strategic location between two major population centers in the state."

Amazon has some flexible requirements for potential sites. It needs to be in a metropolitan area with more than one million people, have a stable and business-friendly environment, potential to attract and retain strong technical talent and about 100 acres of land among other things. 

"We submitted a number of locations in a number of communities in Waukesha County that meet Amazon's criteria," Casey said. "We have multiple sites of 100 plus acres in the right locations."

As for specifics, Casey wouldn't divulge that information. However, our partners at the Milwaukee Business Journal say there are two sites in the Walkers Point area that the city is pitching. However, they're significantly smaller than what Amazon is asking for, though it may not eliminate them from contention.

"Land prices," Sean Ryan with the Milwaukee Business Journal said. "You're going to get the same amount of land for cheaper than coastal cities. The coastal cities have more workforce but here in Milwaukee, you have a very sophisticated economic development group. This is also the state that put $3 billion down for Foxconn. They know how to do these deals."

One site is 60 acres while the other is 17 acres. However, Casey says total acreage may be less important than location.

"Why don't you just go higher?" Casey said. "In a 50 or 60 acre site closer to Milwaukee, you would go more vertical. Out here, we can give you 100 acres and you can build the campus however you want to."

Location is just one of the many roadblocks facing Southeast Wisconsin's bid at landing Amazon. Just months after announcing Foxconn would be coming to Wisconsin bringing thousands of jobs, it could be difficult to fill the 50,000 jobs Amazon promises to bring. With an already low unemployment rate, it's a good problem to have but could deter them from choosing America's Dairyland. 

"As we're competing to get the project, it could work against the region's favor," Ryan said. "We need more people to move into the area or train up more people here to meet those jobs in the future."

But Casey says the area is more than up to the task. The Corners in Brookfield are a shining example of why. 

"There are 240 apartments," Casey said. "Empty nesters and young professionals are moving here because they want a place where they can walk to the coffee shop, walk to various restaurants and retail around here. We're also immediately adjacent to the highway interchange and a major transit transfer facility across the way. These are the kind of strategic nodes people are looking for and companies are looking for that attract talent."

He says Amazon would be a magnet for people from all over the southern part of Wisconsin and further to flock to, should they choose the area. 

"We're in a metro area of around 1.6 million," Casey said. "We're in a region of two million people but also, we're just east of another major population center in Dane County with 500,000 plus people. We can draw from all of those areas. I think we can attract people here. Having companies of the caliber of Foxconn or Amazon look at your area will help tell that story and attract people here."