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Tacoma Jumps Into The Competition For Amazon's New Headquarters

Will James
Tacoma and Pierce County officials kept their Amazon bid in an Amazon shipping box marked "confidential"

Why would Amazon build its second headquarters just 30 miles from its first headquarters in Seattle? 

If you ask leaders in Tacoma, it's because their city has everything the retail giant loves about the Pacific Northwest, plus plenty of room to grow. 

"We're far enough away to be creative, competitive, innovative, but we're close enough to collaborate," said Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. "Grow with us and stay here, because there's no place like home." 

Tacoma and Pierce County officials jumped into the continent-wide competition for Amazon's new headquarters Wednesday, undaunted by hints that the company is looking beyond the Pacific Northwest.

An Amazon executivesaid at a summit last week that "not everyone wants to live in the Northwest." The company later released a statement that it would "give serious consideration" to every proposal. 

Tacoma-area leaders launched their bid with an event at Tacoma's Pantages Theater. 

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, who represents the area in Congress, said there are plenty of reasons for the company to stay close to home. 

"Beyond the fact that you will find movers and shakers, you will find talented workers, and you will find stunning views, Yelp named Tacoma one of America's most romantic cities," he said, prompting laughs. 

In a nod to a TLC reality show, the congressman urged Amazon to "say 'yes' to the dress." 

The scramble to win the bid does have the feel of a reality television competition, with cities publicly courting the company since it announced intentions to build a second, "equal" headquarters in September.

Whoever wins gets 50,000 workers and $5 billion investment in construction, according to Amazon's estimates.

Officials in Washington's South Sound region have said one of their biggest challenges is creating jobs locally, so fewer residents have to commute north along a clogged I-5. 

Leaders in the Tacoma area say their region is primed to grow, and workers will be attracted to a Pacific Northwest environment and culture that has proven to work for Amazon in Seattle.

But Tacoma and Pierce County are competing with much larger cities, like Chicago and Boston. 

King and Snohomish counties have launched their own joint bid. Tacoma-area officials said they were in talks to collaborate with their northern neighbors, but decided they could make a stronger bid on their own.

Like other contenders, Tacoma and Pierce County are likely offering the company a package of tax breaks and incentives. But, as with other bids, those details aren't public.

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier said his region's bid was not a "race to the bottom" on tax breaks, but a pitch for the broader appeal of the South Sound. 

Will James is a former KNKX reporter and was part of the special projects team, reporting and producing podcasts such as Outsiders and The Walk Home.