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Attracting Amazon

Excerpt from Justin's October Newsletter

Today the National Science Foundation (NSF) is completing their move to Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria. With 2,100 employees and contractors, and an agency that attracts tens of thousands of overnight visitors each year, this is a big win for Alexandria.

The competition to attract NSF was heated, and the win was a home-run for the City and its taxpayers.

At the beginning of last month, the technology behemoth Amazon announced a search for a new headquarters. The solicitation envisions $5 billion of investment and nearly 50,000 employees slated for this new facility. If NSF was a home-run, Amazon is a walk-off grand-slam in the bottom of the 9th inning in game seven of the World Series.

The City of Alexandria has several areas that would make an excellent home for Amazon and we will be submitting a response prior to the deadline later this month.

It is difficult to imagine any eligible jurisdiction in America not competing to win this solicitation. The competition will be fierce. The City will work to win, but that's not the point of this newsletter update.

Whether Amazon's future headquarters ends up in Alexandria or not, we can all learn a bit from the solicitation itself. When one of the most innovative companies on the planet puts out a very clear blueprint for how it approaches choosing where to invest, it would be foolhardy for jurisdictions not to pay attention.

The solicitation validates some of the policy we have made in our community in recent years, and should prompt us to redouble our efforts in other policy areas.

To begin, Amazon wants to be in a Metropolitan area. They know that their workforce of the future will be drawn to urban communities.

They want connectivity. The solicitation specifically cites: "sidewalks, bike lanes, trams, metro, bus, light rail, train." The City's efforts to invest in new transit alternatives, enhanced pedestrian infrastructure and transit-oriented communities are not just efforts to improve the quality of life of our existing residents, but significant economic development efforts. These are valuable things to people and businesses, big and small.

They want sustainability. Amazon is the largest purchaser of renewable power in the nation and they are looking for a new headquarters that gives them the opportunity to expand their leadership in this important area. Their existing headquarters uses "district energy" that recycles heat from data centers to warm nearby offices. Three of the City's recently adopted small area (Eisenhower West, North Potomac Yard and Old Town North) plans call for district energy as a sustainability effort in planned redevelopment. We are preparing to update our green building standards to ensure sustainability is a critical component in future private development.

They want a community with superior information connectivity. They seek details on fiber and communication infrastructure.

They want an educated workforce. They are looking for areas with strong institutes of higher education.

They want an area where their employees will want to live. They cite the need for a diverse community with a variety of housing types and recreation opportunities.

Amazon's new headquarters would be a valuable addition to Alexandria. Yet, whether we win or lose this solicitation, the process should be instructive. The innovative companies of this decade and beyond will all seek a similar model for their future investment.

Growing sustainably while preserving our neighborhoods will require the City to be responsive to this roadmap for the future.

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