October 30, 2017
CENTRAL MASS IN BRIEF

Breaking down the Central Mass. bids for Amazon

A picker at one of Amazon's fulfillment facilities prepares items for shipment.

Of the 238 cities and states who submitted bids to attract online retail giant Amazon's second headquarters, three are from Central Massachusetts.

Worcester, Leominster, and a coalition of MetroWest communities submitted bids with hopes the company would build its potential 8 million-square-foot headquarters there, bring up to 50,000 high-paying jobs and invest $5 billion into local infrastructure.

In addition to the three individual bids, Massachusetts in its official bid highlighted areas of downtown Worcester potentially serving as the site of at least part of the headquarters.

The company is seeking a major metropolitan area of more than 1 million residents and access to higher education institutions, public transportation and proximity to an international airport.

WORCESTER'S BID

Tax breaks: $500 million in tax-increment financing over 20 years

Proposed property: Worcester offered up 98 acres of land off of Route 20 made up of three mostly-contiguous parcels of 22.2 acres, 53.9 acres and 21.9 acres. The property is owned by multiple private entities and is currently zoned for manufacturing, but zoning can always be changed.

Strengths: Even though the city of 180,000 is smaller than Amazon's desired size, the entire Greater Worcester metropolitan area would satisfy the population requirements. The region is home to 12 colleges and a growing technology sector. The city offers cheaper real estate and cost of living compared to Boston with access to virtually the same workforce.

Weaknesses: Worcester's transportation infrastructure is underdeveloped with a small airport, no direct access to the Massachusetts Turnpike, and a limited transit system. Amazon would be unable to build one contiguous campus on the proposed properties, and the city's property tax rate is significantly higher than the two other Central Massachusetts proposals.

METROWEST'S BID

Tax breaks: Undisclosed deal would be created four weeks after Amazon expresses interest.

Proposed property: A coalition made up of Marlborough, Northborough, Southborough, Westborough and Hudson offered 2.5 million square feet in business parks in Marlborough and Northborough near I-495, and 4.3 million square feet of space along the highway in Southborough and Westborough at sites owned by Dell EMC, office parks and vacant land.

Strengths: Of the "We're close to Boston's colleges and workforce but less expensive" arguments, MetroWest has the best one. Marlborough is already home to major technology companies like GE Healthcare, Raytheon and Boston Scientific. Being at the intersection of the Mass Pike and I-495 offers logistical advantages to New England's urban hubs.

Weaknesses: Despite Marlborough's efforts, MetroWest is not an urban hub, instead retaining its suburban appeal.

Transit is frequently cited as a problem for MetroWest companies with significant portions of their workforce commuting from Boston.

LEOMINSTER'S BID

Tax breaks: $405 million over 13 years through a special tax assessment

Proposed property: The city proposed a 30-acre capped landfill off of the Leominster Connector roadway to hold 858,000-square-feet of office space, a 216-acre site directly off of I-190 and several other privately-owned sites to accommodate the entire HQ2.

Strengths: Of the three Central Massachusetts bids, Leominster would offer the best cost advantages for building HQ2 and cost of living for Amazon's workforce. The city has highway and train access to major New England hubs.

Weaknesses: Its population is well under Amazon's desired 1-million mark, with the most populated areas an hour drive away. The industry around Leominster isn't as technology-oriented as Worcester or MetroWest.

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