Amazon, the behemoth online retailer, is planning a second headquarters complex, dubbed HQ2. They have set off a very public competition between cities vying for this project, which is likely to bring in many jobs as well as some notoriety and prestige.
The company has articulated a set of criteria it will use to select the appropriate site, spelled out here.
Cities on both sides of the Bay are eager to make their case to Amazon. To do so, Mayors Buckhorn and Kriseman have even agreed to collaborate on a single Tampa Bay proposal, which longtime Tampa Bay residents can tell you pretty much never happens.
Although the details of their joint proposal are not public, one of the most obvious sites for an Amazon location would be an 85 acre area near downtown St. Petersburg that would be awfully familiar to Rays fans.
Yes, the Tropicana Field site — soon to be available for redevelopment — would meet many of the criteria set out by Amazon (but not all; more on that below).
Putting this site into the Amazon discussion, however, does not mean that the Rays wouldn’t also be part of St. Petersburg’s vision for the future.
Mayor Kriseman and St. Petersburg economic development officials note that a stadium and an Amazon headquarters complex could be quite compatible, as St. Pete’s current proposal includes the addition of office buildings around the stadium:
Other sites in the discussion include Water Street Tampa, Jeff Vinik’s downtown complex, as well as other Channelside locations (which have also been part of Rays stadium speculation).
Tampa Bay would, however, be considered a long shot in the competition.
While the area has some criteria important to Amazon, including appropriate sites and what is known as a “business-friendly” environment, it probably falls short in areas of education and labor force, and certainly fails in the “logistics” category which includes a strong public transit system. Tampa-St. Pete, like other car dependent regions, may have trouble convincing Amazon that our existing bus and ferry options constitute real “mass transit.”
While it is probably not likely that the Tampa Bay region will be home to anything but Amazon’s warehouse and back office operations, it is certainly encouraging to see the two largest cities of the region recognize that they are stronger when working together than they are when working at cross-purposes.
Perhaps this cooperation can extend into other areas, like stadium and transit development moving forward.