W.Va. House speaker makes pitch to Amazon for HQ2 site

By John Severance | Oct 5, 2017

Seattle-based Amazon announced earlier this month that it is seeking a second headquarters outside of the city.  

CHARLESTON – Amazon is looking at the possibility of building a second headquarters, and a West Virginia lawmaker wants the Mountaineer State to be considered.

House Speaker Tim Armstead recently met with Ben LaRocco, a senior manager for Amazon at the National Speakers Conference in early September in Columbus. Armstead followed up with a letter to the Amazon executive, making a pitch for West Virginia.

Armstead realizes the possibility of West Virginia being the second headquarters for Amazon is a long shot.

"But there’s little point in making business-friendly reforms at the state level if we don’t go out and aggressively tell our story and pitch our state to industry leaders like Amazon," Armstead told The West Virginia Record. "Even if they choose to go elsewhere, we can at least plant the idea that West Virginia is ripe for investment."

Armstead said Amazon may pick a different location for its headquarters, but he wants the tech giant to keep West Virginia in mind for future projects.

"It could also help spread our reputation among other businesses and lead them to give West Virginia another look when they consider new investments," Armstead said. "In the end, if we want companies to invest in West Virginia, we’ve got to show we want their business and are ready to work with them to make it happen."

Amazon announced plans recently to invest $5 billion to build a second North American headquarters, dubbed "Amazon HQ2," which could potentially create up to 50,000 jobs. The company has said it is looking for a place with "a stable and business-friendly environment," and communities that "think big" and creatively, the company stated on its website.

Other cities and areas under consideration include Chicago, Toronto, the San Francisco Bay Area, Georgia, New Jersey and Tucson, Arizona.

That’s not stopping Armstead from making his pitch as he told the Amazon executive that West Virginia could be a good fit for the tech giant.

"West Virginia is uniquely located within an eight-hour drive of half of the country’s population, with easy access to major cities like Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Charlotte, Columbus and New York City," Armstead said. "We have a large amount of open land that’s ready for development. We are working to build up our infrastructure, both traditional infrastructure and broadband."

Armstead said that unlike major cities that have already developed, West Virginia provides Amazon the opportunity to build a headquarters and surrounding community from the ground up, rather than fit it within an existing infrastructure.

"Amazon has said it is looking for 'a stable and business-friendly environment,' and 'communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options,'” Armstead said. "With the tax cuts, right-to-work legislation and legal reforms passed in recent years, we have created a stable, business-friendly environment in our state, and we’re willing to think big and creatively to help Amazon establish a home here."

As for what would it mean to West Virginia to lure Amazon, Armstead said it would be a much-needed shot in the arm to the state.

"It would instantly reinvigorate and diversify our business climate, and employ tens of thousands of people in good-paying, highly skilled jobs," Armstead said. "It could also inspire additional investment in the broader economy as other businesses open to serve these new workers. The domino effect could create tens of thousands of additional new jobs which will further boost the economy for years to come."

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