The Rochester and Buffalo metro regions plan to submit a joint bid in the highly competitive process to secure Amazon’s second headquarters. While the official announcement of this cooperative effort was Thursday, leaders from the two areas have quietly been working together for some time now.
The unprecedented public competition has nearly every metro region with more than 1 million people at least considering, if not openly wooing Amazon, which said the new headquarters would bring up to 50,000 high-paying jobs over the next 10 to 15 years.
In the wake of the announcement, Moody Analytics ranked Rochester 4th on a list of 65 cities with a population of a million or more, giving it high marks for cost, transportation, quality of life and human capital. Only Austin, Atlanta and Philadelphia ranked higher.
Leaders in both upstate cities indicated they were putting packages together following Amazon's Request for Proposals on September 7. What they didn't say is they were doing it together.
"Within a day or two, at about the same time I was getting ready to call them, they were getting ready to call us," Invest Buffalo Niagara President & CEO Tom Kucharski said.
In a joint statement, Invest Buffalo Niagara and Greater Rochester Enterprise said it was apparent by linking efforts they could offer a proposal that is “both compelling and extremely competitive.”
"It was really in the best interest of all of us to go in jointly. Other locations may do the same thing so us going in with Buffalo has really been a great thing," Bob Duffy, Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President & CEO said.
Both the Rochester and Buffalo regions have a little more than a million people each, which would have made them among the smallest cities applying. By combining, the agencies said the corridor is home to a talented workforce, livable and affordable communities, and a population of 2.2 million.
"There's 52 metro areas in the United States, 7 in Canada. We're 50th and 51st. If we band together we would move up to 28th and that makes a lot of sense," Kucharski said.
Although they've been working together for about a month, the two cities haven't said anything about the partnership, both because of the sheer amount of work being done and a non-disclosure agreement with the company. Thursday, a week before the deadline for submissions, they decided it was time to go public.
"There's rumors flying around. There's even been some reports that weren't exactly accurate and we just felt like we ought to at least let everybody know that, hey were in this together,” Kucharski said.
The agencies said they're suggesting options around Rochester and Buffalo and ways Amazon could connect both. It's limited by the company's specifications which initially call for at least 500,000 square feet to house 5,000 employees and eventually 8 million square feet to support up to 50,000 high-paying jobs.
"I don't think we're a long shot,” Duffy said. “We're certainly, probably not considered a favorite but we are no long shot."
“This collaboration demonstrates the undeniable connectivity that already exists between our two great communities,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said in a joint statement. “In addition to several excellent site options and a low-cost operating environment, we believe that it is our people, highly-skilled workforce, world-class colleges and universities, and strong regional competency in radio-frequency identification, sustainable packaging, flight controls, drone technology, high-performance computing, software development, and data analytics that will help our proposal stand out.”
In addition to potentially eliminating concerns about lack of population, the collaboration also solves a potential dilemma for statewide and federal elected leaders. Few were choosing sides as the two cities, roughly an hour apart on the thruway planned to compete against each other.
Empire State Development has encouraged any region that qualified, including Rochester, Buffalo, Albany, and New York City to participate and has promised the state’s tax incentive package would be largely the same across the state. The two economic agencies have a week to finish the joint proposal before the October 19 response deadline.