Amazon passed on Northwest Indiana as a potential home for its second headquarters, but included Chicago and Indianapolis in the 20 finalists out of the 238 proposals it received.
"An Indianapolis selection benefits our whole state, and so we couldn't help but have our profile raised as being in a state that attracts that kind of investment," said Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Committee Executive Director Ty Warner, who served on the steering committee for Gary's bid. "And a Chicago selection only helps augment the gains of the South Shore double-tracking and West Lake extension, bringing more opportunities for that kind of talent to locate in Northwest Indiana."
Gary, Hammond and Northwest Indiana submitted bids for the coveted headquarters but were not named finalists.
"Indeed it’s disappointing that we were not considered," Gary steering committee member Vance Kenney said. "I do, however, feel that if Chicago is selected that Gary should remain in the picture through the Gary-Chicago Airport and our proximity to the city of Chicago."
The That's So Region panel discusses the Region's failed bid for Amazon's HQ2 (1:38), the sentencing of former Lake County Sheriff John Buncic…
In September, the online behemoth announced plans for a second headquarters that would bring $5 billion in investment and 50,000 high-paying jobs to a lucky city in North America. Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said the HQ2 would be "the full equal" of its growing headquarters in Seattle, which has taken over much of the downtown office market in that Pacific Northwest city.
HQ2 finalists, heavily concentrated along the East Coast, include Atlanta, Raleigh, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, Newark, New Jersey, Miami, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia and Montgomery County outside of D.C. in Maryland. Other finalists include Los Angeles, Denver, Austin, Dallas, Toronto and Columbus, Ohio.
Hammond pitched a site on Lake Michigan, and Gary offered up downtown sites.
“We were disappointed that Gary was not one of the specific locations for the second Amazon headquarters, but are excited that the Chicago location is one of the choices. It is not a secret that Gary is part of the Chicago metropolitan area and there are significant benefits — from the Gary/Chicago Airport to our proximity to Lake Michigan and affordable homes," Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said. "We have already seen the benefits of assembling and submitting an application. It has allowed us to make the case for Gary as a location for a number of businesses and it has also helped others understand the regional dividend in supporting economic development in Gary. We still have the ability to share in the bounty of a successful Chicago bid and wish them well in the process.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a news release his administration was thrilled to see Indianapolis on the list of finalists.
"It speaks to Indiana’s growing reputation on the world stage as a great state to locate and grow a business," Holcomb said. "We look forward to working with the central Indiana region and Amazon as they continue to narrow their list of potential sites for HQ2."
Indiana University Northwest assistant professor of economics Micah Pollak said Northwest Indiana would benefit economically if the headquarters were located in either Chicago or Indianapolis. And Pollak said the Region benefited just from chasing the project, widely considered to be a holy grail of economic development.
"Even though Gary did not make the short list of finalist cities for the Amazon headquarters, the decision to submit a bid was an excellent one," Pollak said. "The decision represents the type of creative and out-of-the-box thinking that the city of Gary, and Northwest Indiana in general, needs to encourage."
Gary drew the national spotlight to Northwest Indiana and its advantages by writing a letter to Bezos in the New York Times, which potentially could pique the interest of other companies.
"It's clear from the characteristics of the finalist cities that Gary was always an extreme long shot," Pollak said. "However, the next time a company is considering expanding or relocating their headquarters, the city of Gary and Northwest Indiana is now more likely to be on their list of candidates."
The pursuit also demonstrated a more open-minded approach to economic development that the Region has sorely needed, Pollak said.
"The bid surprised many of the citizens of Northwest Indiana," he said. "The most common reaction I saw was that of surprise that going after these types of jobs was an option for the Region."
Pollak said the economic history of Northwest Indiana is steeped in steel and manufacturing, and while a prosperous future must include these industries, it must also look beyond them.
"Northwest Indiana needs to diversify our economy and focus on attracting higher-paying 'knowledge-economy' jobs, like those that the Amazon headquarters promised," he said.
The Region proved it could dream big, and got some good publicity that could help with future economic development ventures, Warner said.
"Any time our region tries to imagine what it can become, and thinks seriously and practically about what it can aspire to be, that in itself is an extremely positive movement for the region," he said.
"The application helped communicate a strong message about how integrated Northwest Indiana is with the Chicago region, and I hope that will now translate to Apple's announcement, and to any potential new job generator, about what Northwest Indiana has to offer."
The bids by the Northwest Indiana assembly could be used to help draw other companies in the future, said Krieg DeVault partner Cal Bellamy, who served on the Gary steering committee.
"Gary’s package is relevant to many other companies looking for sites. We may not be on Amazon’s short list, but the quality of the Gary presentation will get Northwest Indiana on other companies’ short list," Bellamy said. "So far as Chicago is concerned, if they are chosen, there would be definite spin off benefits for Northwest Indiana and our business development people should explore how they can be of assistance to the Chicago bid."
Amazon.com plans to make a decision later this year.