Haslam voices misgivings about recruiting new Amazon HQ to Nashville

Gov. Bill Haslam sounded apprehensive when asked recently about the prospect of Nashville landing the immense second headquarters planned by retail behemoth Amazon.com, reports the Nashville Business Journal.

Haslam made his remarks in a 45-minute conversation hosted Feb. 23 by The Pew Charitable Trusts. One of the questions he fielded was about Amazon’s (Nasdaq: AMZN) search for a second headquarters, which has been captivating for its breathtaking size and potential to shake up how economic development deals are done.

The Seattle-based company has said it plans to invest $5 billion in whatever city will host its “HQ2” — an operation Amazon says will grow to 50,000 high-tech jobs over a roughly 15-year span (average annual compensation: $100,000), potentially involving some 8 million square feet of office space. Amazon whittled 238 bids from across North America down to 20 contenders, including Nashville. Landing Amazon would transform Greater Nashville, which is why many CEOs say they are thrilled Nashville is still in the hunt and many other business leaders fear just that.

“Amazon’s an interesting one. … I think we hope they choose Nashville,” Haslam said. He and the audience shared a brief chuckle.

Further from The Tennessean:

Haslam said about 70,000 or 75,000 employees currently work in Nashville’s downtown, underscoring the massive effect an Amazon headquarters would have.

“In the downtown area, that would be a jolt to the system,” Haslam said. “You have to be ready to handle that from an infrastructure piece and everything else.”

… Haslam said a D.C.-area headquarters selection would not surprise him, but even in cities like New York or D.C., “Amazon will change the future of that city.”

When asked about Amazon in one of two questions, Haslam joked about forgetting the first question.

“Say the first one again,” he said. “I got to thinking about Amazon and my mind went. Sorry. It’s like, I might get asked to the prom, you know.”

Haslam described Nashville an “incredibly attractive city.” Because the city needs little assistance when it comes to recruiting companies, he has focused economic development efforts on more rural areas, he said.

“I don’t have to recruit companies to come to Nashville,” he said. “It is literally, you are taking the next company in line and working out details.”

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