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Vancouver finalizes Amazon pitch ahead of deadline

City managers from Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, New West and Surrey have put together a case to show how the region meets Amazon’s requirements for a site, talent and incentives.

Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos presents the company's first smartphone, the Fire Phone, on June 18, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.

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David Ryder / Getty Images

Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos presents the company's first smartphone, the Fire Phone, on June 18, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.

The Metro Vancouver region will submit its pitch to Amazon this Thursday to try to convince the tech giant to locate its HQ2 here.

“I don’t like to call it a bid because we’re not giving them anything,” said Ian McKay, CEO of the Vancouver Economic Commission, who has been working on the proposal.

“Lots of cities will be giving them money. When we talk about incentives, the Vancouver Charter thankfully prohibits the city from giving money to a company. That wouldn’t be fair to other companies who’ve grown up here on their own.”

Instead, the team of city managers from Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster and Surrey has put together a case to show how the Vancouver region meets Amazon’s requirements for a site, talent and incentives.

Those “incentives” have been tallied as Vancouver’s attractiveness for millennials looking to start their careers, connections with Asia, office space options, universities and the region’s ability to attract people from around the world.

Cities across North America are vying for the tech giant’s attentions, which is currently headquartered in Seattle. In Canada, those cities include Halifax, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton. In the U.S., New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offered the company up to $7 billion in tax incentives.

A successful bid would bring 50,000 workers to the Metro Vancouver region over the next 15 years, and an ever-increasing need for office space. Amazon would require 550,000 square feet in phase one; three million square feet in phase two; and up to eight million square feet by phase three.

Amazon has said it would ideally like the space to be “contiguous” (sites that share borders), McKay said, and the Metro Vancouver municipalities working on the bid have submitted an inventory of possible space.

Vancouver is making the bid as the city continues to grapple with an ongoing housing crisis that has sent land prices through the roof and led major employers to warn about the difficulty of attracting talent when housing is so scarce and expensive. The city’s tech scene continues to be small and start-up oriented when compared with major tech centres.

McKay said he doesn’t think the city’s housing woes are reason to pause this attempt to gain a huge burst of economic development.

“There’s no way we can consider approaching a bid like this in a way that doesn’t consider affordability, transportation, talent, all of those issues are gripping Vancouver right now,” he said.

“I don’t think we should press pause on those until we achieve perfection. I think we need to tackle them in concert and recognize that growth is disruptive, and it’s the collective job of the region to figure out a way to accommodate it or take it on at a pace that we can accommodate it.”

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