Amazon.com has outgrown Seattle.
The e-commerce giant, which employs about 40,000 people in the city after a hiring boom and urban build-out with little precedent in modern American history, is searching for a second home.
In an early morning news release Thursday, the company announced it was seeking to place a second headquarters somewhere in North America. The online retailer said it plans to spend upward of $5 billion on the new corporate campus, which could eventually house as many as 50,000 employees.
The new headquarters will “be a full equal” to Amazon’s Seattle home, chief executive Jeff Bezos said. “We’re excited to find a second home.”
Amazon plans to hire new executives and groups to locate in that headquarters, and also give senior leaders the option of placing teams in one or both headquarters. Employees currently working in Seattle, Amazon said, may have an opportunity to choose to work from the new headquarters.
Plans for a new headquarters, which Amazon is calling HQ2, seems to chart expectations for more rapid growth at a company that was already likely the second largest employer in the U.S.
After sealing the $13.5 billion purchase of Austin-based Whole Foods Market and its 87,000 employees last month, the combined workforce likely totaled 469,000, trailing only Wal-Mart and its 2.3 million employees.
About 40,000 Amazonians work across 8.1 million square feet of office space in the company’s sprawling Seattle campus, and Amazon is on track to grow that physical footprint by half in the next five years.
The public search for a new headquarters will likely spark a bidding war among states and cities eager for a piece of one of America’s fastest-growing companies. Leaders of Fort Worth and Dallas said they expect North Texas to make a pitch.
An eight-page request for proposal Amazon posted online Thursday said incentives offered to offset building and operating costs “will be significant factors in the decision-making process.”
Dallas-Fort Worth is typically in the running for corporate relocations and Amazon has built a strong presence in the region. It operates fulfillment centers in Haslet, Fort Worth, Coppell and Dallas, as well as facilities to serve its Amazon Fresh grocery delivery business.
Fort Worth already has a business relationships with Amazon and the city’s economic development team is always working to try to attact new operations, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said. Also, Alliance Airport, with a newly expanded runway that can transport fully-loaded cargo planes to Asia, could be a selling point for Amazon.
“We’d love to have them,” Price said. “We’d love to have another headquarters.”
Packages of goodies given to companies that promise jobs have come a long way since Chicago snagged Boeing’s headquarters from Seattle in 2001 with tax breaks worth up to $60 million.
During Boeing’s headquarters search, the company considered several sites in the Metroplex as the region’s leaders pitched the benefits of locating in North Texas. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings expects the region to do the same for Amazon.
“Amazon, obviously, is the best of the best and we want to make sure that we show well first as a region,” Rawlings said, noting that Amazon may have specific real estate requirements that might eliminate some North Texas cities.
When General Electric agreed to move its headquarters from suburban Connecticut to Boston last year, the pot was sweetened by up to $145 million in incentives.
And subsidies to keep or expand manufacturing work in states have added up to billions in tax breaks for the likes of aluminum maker Alcoa, General Motors and Intel and to Boeing Washington state for a commitment to build the 777x airliner.
Measured by expected direct employment, Amazon’s scale dwarfs those projects.
The company listed other criteria on its wish list, including an urban or suburban core in a metropolitan area with more than a million people, a highly educated workforce and a “stable and business-friendly environment.”
Amazon isn’t picky about whether to build or buy. It said it would field proposals for sites that include 500,000 square feet of space in the first phase, or new construction on a plot of 100 acres or more. Plans may eventually incorporate up to 8 million square feet of office space.
Speed appears to be a priority. The company asked interested municipalities to offer their best guess at the timeline Amazon could expect for permitting and other considerations to be completed as part of the proposals it is requesting by Oct. 19.
Amazon expects to announce a decision next year, and start work on the first phase of a new campus by 2019.
“We encourage cities to think big and be creative,” the company said.
Staff writer Andrea Ahles contributed to this report.