News

Niagara plans bi-national bid for Amazon HQ

By Allan Benner, The Standard

Jim Diodati

Jim Diodati

While Niagara has officially thrown its line in the water hoping to land Amazon’s second headquarters, the Region will need help to reel in the $5-billion investment.

Regional councillors unanimously approved a motion by Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati at Thursday’s meeting, authorizing regional staff to submit a bid in response to the e-commerce giant’s request for proposals from communities interested in becoming home to the massive facility, expected to employ up to 50,000 workers.

Regional Chair Alan Caslin called it a “long shot,” but said the Region’s bid would have an edge over the competition.

Welland Coun. Paul Grenier suggested teaming up with U.S. neighbours in Erie and Niagara counties, to submit a bid “together as a cross-border submission.”

The bid, he added, would focus on the strengths offered by communities on both sides of the Niagara River such as Niagara’s foreign trade zone design, U.S. and local colleges and universities, as well as the Buffalo airport which “is much more inline with what Amazon is looking for.”

“I’m hoping that through very aggressive economic development funding of both Erie and Niagara counties, with ours and our component municipality partners, we could actually put together that type of presentation,” Grenier said.

Caslin assured Grenier that “everything you mentioned is already being worked on by our economic development department.”

Caslin said he spoke to the mayors of Hamilton and Niagara Falls, N.Y., last week, to discuss teaming up to bid on the project.

“We’re giving away our secret, and I know David Oakes (Niagara’s economic development director) did not want me to do that, but we would be the only bi-national bid and that really does give us an edge,” he said.

Caslin said regional staff also met with Hamilton’s economic development team Monday, to discuss “creating that critical mass that’s necessary to put forward a winning bid.”

“Toronto can try, Mississauga can try, but they don’t have the bi-national aspect that we have. They don’t have the foreign trade zone that we have. They aren’t designated as a gateway economic corridor like we are. They don’t have the room to grow. We have a lot going for us,” he said.

“Yes, it’s a long shot, but we’ve played long shots before,” Caslin added, listing General Electric and the Canada Summer Games as examples of past successes.

Even if the bi-national bid is not successful, Grenier said the presentation developed in conjunction with U.S. partners “will serve us well” if other similar opportunities arise.

ABenner@postmedia.com



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