Tech-giant Amazon is in the process of choosing a location for their second headquarters, capturing the imaginations and lucrative tax-incentives of 238 North American cities and regions. Unsurprisingly, Chicago threw their metaphorical hat in the ring earlier this month, along with a very literal $2.25 billion incentive package of their own.
The Second City’s large incentives, however, are not the largest offered in the bidding war. New Jersey and Gov. Chris Christie upped the ante in a statement on Oct. 16, offering $7 billion for a shot at the new HQ.
For obvious reasons, Chicago’s plan to land Amazon, and up to 50,000 jobs, rely a lot on tax incentives. Among the incentives offered are EDGE tax credits to giving the business a tax break to lure the company in hopes that the revenue and jobs that they create offset initial breaks. Advocates for the project, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, are also banking on developers contributions to “Neighborhood Opportunity Funds” which are set in place to help renovate “long-neglected Chicago neighborhoods” in exchange for building downtown, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
After months of public disagreements on issues like public school funding, the Amazon bid allows Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Emanuel an easy opportunity for cooperation. “The mayor and the governor are working together to bring Amazon’s second headquarters, and its 50,000 jobs, to Chicago,” said a spokesperson for Mayor Emanuel.
The Amazon project would be humongous for Chicago, but especially for Mayor Emanuel, whose term has been fraught with public construction deals falling through. Just prior to his term, Chicago was a finalist for the 2016 Olympics that ended up going to Rio De Janeiro.
There was the controversy with the proposed Lucas (Star Wars) Museum of Narrative Art on the Chicago lakefront, which was heavily resisted by the Chicago parks organization Friends of the Parks.
The Friends of the Parks would come back to oppose Mayor Emanuel’s attempt to build the Obama Presidential Library. Plans for the library’s construction in Jackson Park were eventually finalized after Mayor Emanuel vowed to move “heaven and earth” to bring it to Chicago.
Heaven and earth may not have to relocate for Chicago to land the headquarters, but they have kept the stars in mind. Like many cities, Chicago has been forced to be creative to woo Amazon. And one of the city’s ringers to impress Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is former “Star Trek” lead William Shatner.
Bezos is an avid fan of the series, as much as even appearing as an alien in the last year’s “Star Trek: Beyond.” Shatner lent his voice to Chicago’s pitch video presented to Amazon earlier this month.
Amazon has estimated that their current headquarters and investments in Seattle generated $38 billion to the city’s overall economy, in addition to their construction costs. So if Chicago does win the tech giant, Mayor Emanuel may be able to forget about Star Wars and the Lucas Museum. He’s a Star Trek guy, now.
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to note that Friends of the Park did not end up filing a suit over the Obama Library.