Attracting Amazon HQ2
Waukesha, other metro Milwaukee counties bid for company’s second headquarters

By Katherine Michalets and Hannah Weikel - Freeman Staff

Oct. 20, 2017


Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow speaks to reporters Wednesday about seeking Amazon’s second headquarters in southeastern Wisconsin as Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett listens behind him.
Submitted photo

WAUKESHA — After hitting the bullseye with the deal for Foxconn’s $10 billion manufacturing facility in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin officials are again taking aim — this time at Amazon and its plans to construct a second headquarters.

On Wednesday, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow joined Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett to announce the metro Milwaukee region’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2, which could employ up to 50,000 people and cost about $5 billion to build.

Farrow said Thursday the proposal created by M7, which represents the seven metro Milwaukee counties, answers well the questions Amazon created to make its decision, which isn’t expected until next year. The deadline for proposals was Thursday.

Amazon’s HQ2 proposal has drawn more than 150 declared bidders, and likely even more who haven’t gone public with their intentions. Some weren’t waiting until the last minute to make their filings. Chicago, the state of Minnesota, and Tacoma, Wash. were among those who had submitted their responses by Wednesday afternoon.

What helped M7 prepare the Amazon proposal was it had just come off the Foxconn deal and had a lot of the information assembled already, Farrow said. The proposal, he said, highlights that the metro Milwaukee region has the population needed for the second headquarters and the quality workforce Amazon wants.

Included in Amazon’s wish list of amenities is a highly educated workforce and a place with a flexible transportation network.

While any of the counties in southeastern Wisconsin would like to be home to a second Amazon headquarters, Farrow said Waukesha County has a lot to offer the company and he is “cautiously optimistic” that it could be picked by the giant company.

Tim Casey, director of economic development for Waukesha County Center for Growth, said he’s helped compile information on sites in multiple Waukesha County cities and will continue to work with M7 on the final proposal that will be given to Amazon.

The request for proposal from Amazon outlined a need for at least 100 acres, good highway access and the potential to serve the selected site’s area with some sort of transportation, Casey said.

Waukesha Mayor Shawn Reilly said he let Casey know when news broke that Amazon was looking for a second headquarters location that the city would support any site selected in the region.

Although it’s possible M7 will include a site in Waukesha in their proposal, Reilly said there isn’t a piece of land that is vacant and readily available for Amazon’s HQ2 within the city limits.

Waukesha County Board Chairman Paul Decker said he has not been active in the pursuit to bring Amazon to southeastern Wisconsin, but he’d be happy to help if called upon.

He thinks it’s a good idea to have a “stretch goal” such as landing Amazon’s second headquarters because it helps people to create an honest comparison of where metro Milwaukee stands in comparison to other metro areas.

While southeastern Wisconsin has many great assets, Decker said, he believes work would need to be done on its infrastructure for Amazon to commit to the area.

“Looking future forward, they are going to be thinking what will be there in 10, 20 years from now,” Decker said.

He would love to have a headquarters like Amazon in Waukesha County because its benefits would reverberate throughout the state, but he’d also like to take a look at how to get companies to start and incubate here to become the next disruptor in the marketplace, Decker said.