Enfield, Backed by Western Mass., Goes After Amazon HQ2

The State of Connecticut is throwing its muscle behind Hartford and Stamford in their bids to become the home of Amazon’s second headquarters.  The Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, however, has issued a letter supporting a bid by the town of Enfield. In addition to Enfield, the cities and towns of Bridgeport, Fairfield, New Haven and Stratford submitted a joint proposal; Danbury also applied.

The bid by Enfield is perhaps the most ironic, as the Boston Globe pointed out in a front page article .  The central location being proposed is currently the Enfield Square Mall, which has seen its anchor stores – Macy’s, JC Penney’s and Sears – leave in recent years, followed by numerous smaller retailers.  The proposal is on the agenda of the next town Economic Development Commission, scheduled for Wednesday morning.  The Enfield proposal suggests Hartford, West Hartford, Windsor, Meriden and New Haven and Springfield as "potential satellite campuses" and stresses Enfield's place at the center of the Knowledge Corridor, which runs from Springfield to New Haven.

“It’s a scene repeating itself in dying suburban malls around the country,” the Globe reported, “a sweeping economic disruption known as the Amazon effect.”  Industry analysts have predicted that 20 percent of the 1,200 shopping malls in the U.S. will “meet their demise,” the Globe indicated.

Amazon.com has received 238 proposals from cities and regions across North America.  Amazon said Monday that 54 states, provinces, districts and territories in the United States, Canada and Mexico were represented in the bids. The number of applicants underscores the interest in the contest, which Amazon announced last month. The world’s largest online retailer said it would invest more than $5 billion and create up to 50,000 jobs for “Amazon HQ2”. The deadline for submitting proposals was last Thursday.

"There are no state boundaries for our region's workforce, company supply chains and students," Rick Sullivan, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council, wrote in a letter supporting Enfield.  The town is along the so-called "Knowledge Corridor," the economic region that includes Springfield as well as Hartford and New Haven, and follows the Interstate 91 corridor in Massachusetts and Connecticut.  The corridor is expected to benefit from the introduction of regular commuter rail service, being introduced next year; the Enfield proposal provides Amazon with a map of the new Hartford Line rail route.

The Enfield bid touts its proximity to higher education, Bradley International Airport and major highways, as well as arts and culture. Also highlighted are major businesses located in the community, including Lego, MassMutual, Brooks Brothers, and Eppendorf, according to published reports. The Enfield proposal opens with a stylized newsletter of the future, including facts about Enfield and the region, led by the headline “Internet Retail Giant Pumps Life Back into Dying Mall!”

"With a population of nearly 50,000, Enfield’s 33 square miles are at the center of the New England Knowledge Corridor, Enfield provides quick and easy access to several US Highways, airports and rail systems," the 12-page Enfield proposal explained.  "Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts are being created in Enfield and surrounding towns to support new development and growth. Abatements and Regional Revenue Sharing are all available to sweeten the deal. Connecticut has the lowest corporate tax rate in the North East."

After having received more than a dozen potential bids, state economic development officials opted to promote Hartford and Stamford as its leading candidates to land the headquarters, developing a website to promote the two regions, under the headline “The Talent You Need.  The Lifestyle They Want.”  The submission noted that "if Connecticut were a country, we’d be the sixth most productive in the world—ahead of Germany, Japan and Hong Kong."

A letter of support jointly signed by the state’s seven-member Congressional delegation and included with the state’s submission did not indicate a preferred location in the state, advocating “full support of Connecticut as the home of your second headquarters.”  A similar letter was signed by legislative leaders of both political parties, along with the co-chairs of the state’s Commission on Economic Competitiveness.  That letter noted that “Connecticut has already made a major commitment to Amazon, with facilities in Windsor and Wallingford, and another planned for North Haven.”

The Hartford bid was supported by the Mayors of Hartford, East Hartford, and West Hartford, along with Chip Beckett of Glastonbury, Chair of the Capital Region Council of Governments.  A joint letter was included in the state’s overall package.  A similar letter supporting Stamford came from that city’s Mayor.

An additional letter of support for the state’s bid was signed by 57 business leaders from throughout the state, accompanied by another from nearly three dozen higher education leaders from public and private institutions.

It was, some have suggested, a show of unity that has been generally lacking during the four months that the state has operated without an approved state budget, the longest such period in the state’s history.

Some communities, most notably the joint proposal by the cities of Bridgeport and New Haven, along with their immediate suburban neighbors, didn’t make the state cut, but submitted proposals nonetheless.  The Enfield proposal touts the entire region, along the I-91 corridor.  Locations in Enfield, including the mall, are suggested, as are other communities north and south of the state line that could host various divisions of an Amazon headquarters, according to reports on the proposal.

Portions of artists renderings included in State of Connecticut proposal advocating for Stamford and Hartford.