Iowa vying for new Amazon HQ

Experts say it's a challenge, but they want to 'take a shot'

DES MOINES - Could Amazon now be coming to Iowa? State leaders are hoping Amazon picks Iowa to house its new corporate headquarters.

Adding Amazon would be the latest addition to what is being called the Silicon Prairie here in Iowa, with Apple's recent addition and Google, Facebook and Microsoft already here with large facilities.

What would that even look like in the metro? For a size comparison, it is expected to be even larger than the already 160-acre Wells Fargo Campus in West Des Moines. Amazon is planning to eventually build a 186-acre project, which is about eight million square miles.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority plans to make a bid. So how is Iowa meeting the laundry list of requests from Amazon when it presents that bid?

"We are right now reviewing the requirements that Amazon has laid out,” said Tina Hoffman, with the Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Amazon says they want their $5 billion project to be near a metro area with more than one million people. Cities in Iowa fall short of that, but Hoffman hopes there is still a chance.

"They're looking for communities that think big. We certainly think big here in Iowa, so although we would need to be a little bit creative in terms of how we would site this kind of a facility, we absolutely want to take a shot at it,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman says Iowa's advantages are its central location and our focus on renewable energy. However, a potential barrier is a smaller supply of qualified workers.

"Making sure that the employees that we have in the state are skilled, those are things that we have to continue to improve on," said Hoffman

Another potential issue is the scope of the project. Amazon wants the building to eventually be eight million square-feet, and create 50,000 new jobs - something big for any city to make room for. But leaders at Hubbell Realty say that is well within the realm of possibility.

"We've added 50,000 people in the last five years in our metro area successfully. We're the fastest growing metro area, last year we added 12,000 people, so for us to do it again, we could easily do that,” said Kris Saddoris, Vice President of Development at Hubbell Realty Company.

These conversations come on the heels of the City of Waukee's major deal with Apple to build a huge data center there. Iowa's leaders want to keep the ball rolling.

"When we have companies like Apple and Microsoft and Google and Facebook, we have the ability to talk about what Iowa has to offer, we usually do pretty well and people like that they hear,” said Hoffman.

Tax breaks may be on the table to get Amazon to come to Iowa and that has been a source of controversy at the Statehouse from both sides of the aisle. House Speaker Linda Upmeyer called out the Apple tax breaks last month.

“Incentives wouldn’t be as necessary, but Iowa has the highest corporate tax rate in the U.S.A. We need tax reform for all,” said Upmeyer.

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