MoneyLocal Business News


Documents detail Cincinnati's failed courtship of Amazon HQ2

Documents detail Cincinnati's failed courtship of Amazon HQ2
Posted at 12:55 PM, Mar 11, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Hoping to woo Amazon's second headquarters, the city promised urban cool and culture along with big-bucks incentives.

Cincinnati made a wide-ranging pitch for the Seattle-based e-commerce giant's second North American headquarters. Newly released files offer a behind-the-scenes look at the hectic weeks after Amazon announced last year it was soliciting bids for a project expected to bring 50,000 jobs to the winner.

Amid hundreds of documents, emails, meeting notes, spreadsheets and graphics as they put together their official pitch, officials often described the potential importance of landing the $5 billion "mega-project," with one set of proposed messaging themes discussing plans to "give Amazon a glimpse into our soul" while proving that the Midwest city was cool and "hip enough."

ANALYSIS: Why it might be good we're not a finalist

Among the top 10 selling points from Mayor John Cranley was: "We Are Fun." Notes written by a Cincinnati publicist in the margins of another proposal suggested citing "trendy, edgier" arts attractions.

The files were obtained by The Associated Press through public records requests.

Cincinnati didn't survive Amazon's January cut from 238 suitors to 20, with the final choice expected later this year. Amazon recently briefed local officials on why, saying not enough tech talent locally was a key reason, followed by transportation infrastructure needs.


The package Cincinnati submitted along with Hamilton County and neighboring northern Kentucky included tax breaks and other economic incentives estimated at $3.1 billion, and discounted parking for Amazon employees worth millions more. Many of the contenders haven't released dollar totals for their packages, although successful entrant Newark, New Jersey, is offering $7 billion.

Cincinnati area officials proposed an "Amazon Prime" transit line, with express service to the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

They also offered examples of Cincinnati's "renaissance," highlighting arts, entertainment and heritage. The city has drawn national attention with the revitalization of the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood after it was torn by racial violence two decades ago.

Their pitch said the city's riverfront area would "make for a highly attractive place for your workforce to enjoy a unique, authentic urban and cultural experience."

Between meetings and conference calls, project participants often shared news media stories about Cincinnati's chances. A frequently forwarded one from Forbes quoted a site selection expert as naming Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati and Dallas as top contenders.

She was right on three of them.