Pittsfield among 26 sites submitted by state in bidding for Amazon's 2nd HQ

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BOSTON — From the home of the New England Patriots to a mall in Leominster to the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield, 26 sites in Massachusetts want to host Amazon's second headquarters and the 50,000 jobs that will accompany it, according to a proposal state officials released Friday.

The proposal also includes the Greylock Mills and Columbia Mills in Lee and Open Square in Holyoke as other possible Western Massachusetts sites.

The corporation would prefer a site within a metropolitan area of 1 million or more people, Amazon leaders said in a September release announcing the site search. The company also said it's seeking "a stable and business-friendly environment" in "urban or suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent."

A spokesperson for Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer's office said she understands the excitement surrounding the proposal but cautions that no one at City Hall sought out this site proposal.

"We don't meet the criteria at all," said Roberta McCulloch-Dews, director of administrative services.

The William Stanley Business Park, formerly home to a sprawling General Electric Corp. campus, is managed by the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority. The authority has struggled for years to attract tenants to the mostly vacant 52-acre park. A developer has proposed to build a 196,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter at the site but has yet to file formal plans with the city.

"The construction-ready William Stanley Business Park and adjoining GE properties are located in downtown Pittsfield in the heart of the Berkshires, a world class cultural destination in the rolling hills of Western Massachusetts," the governor's pitch reads. "Pittsfield itself is at a geographic advantage, with close proximity to the Boston and New York City metropolitan areas, and surrounded by top-tier education institutions ... and more within a short drive."

The pitch for the Lee mills cite their proximity to the Massachusetts Turnpike and rail service.

Rather than backing one specific site, the bid touts the state as a whole, highlighting its "unparalleled constellation of 125 colleges and universities" and the workforce those institutions can provide.

Without making specific offers to Amazon, the bid highlights the state's "broad array of financial programs to attract private investment and to promote innovation and job creation."

The document showcases the state's Economic Development Incentive Program tax credit, the MassWorks Infrastructure Program, the Infrastructure Investment Incentive (I-Cubed) Program and investments made through the state's capital plan. Recent recipients of state investments are described, including the Cambridge campus of EF, the Lowell headquarters of Kronos and City Square in Worcester.

"Massachusetts creates a favorable business environment for companies to launch, grow and thrive by keeping our tax structure fair and predictable, managing our state budget wisely, and making targeted investments for the future," the bid says before mentioning tax credits for hiring veterans, investment, research and development, and brownfields redevelopment.

State officials noted that Amazon already employs "thousands" of people in Massachusetts at locations such as Amazon Robotics in North Reading, fulfillment centers in Fall River and Stoughton, a research-and-development office in Cambridge, and at an office expected to open in Fort Point in Boston.

If Amazon were to choose Massachusetts as its next home, the tax structure the online retail behemoth faces on move-in day could look quite different from what's outlined in the pitch.

Voters are set to decide next year whether to impose a surtax on incomes in excess of $1 million, and retailers are gathering signatures for a potential 2018 ballot question to lower the sales tax back to its old 5 percent rate. Other potential questions would implement a paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The document includes testimonials from Associated Industries of Massachusetts, the Boston Bruins, Boston Red Sox, the University of Massachusetts, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and General Electric — which moved its corporate headquarters from Connecticut to Boston in a deal involving up to $120 million in infrastructure improvements from the state and $25 million in local tax breaks.

Ann Klee, the vice president of GE's Boston development and operations, said the company was impressed by "the strong bipartisan working relationship between Governor Baker, Mayor [Martin] Walsh, and their respective teams."

Walsh is running for re-election next month, and Baker has not yet announced his political plans; the governor's office is on the ballot in November 2018.

Mark Zuckerberg, who co-founded Facebook while attending Harvard University and later moved the company to California, wrote, "If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston."

While state officials deferred to local officials to promote and submit their own plans, the depth of the bid shows that the state has been working on it for a while — the bid document runs 182 pages.

For each site that local officials proposed, the state bid breaks down the transit options and the nearby population, showing the number of millennials, computer and mathematics professionals and holders of advanced degrees within a 30-minute drive, 60-minute drive and transit trip with no more than one transfer.

Eagle staff writer Amanda Drane contributed to this report.

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