5 details from Philly’s pitch to Amazon

Including a bunch of gifts from Johnny Doc.

Amazon HQ's front door

Amazon HQ's front door

Robert Scoble / Flickr

Philadelphia’s bid for Amazon is official. Today the city sent its proposal selling itself as home for the internet juggernaut’s $5 billion second headquarters, which the company is calling HQ2.

Here are five key details for how Philadelphia pitched itself to Amazon, from possible locations to incentives to support from unions.

Three proposed sites

Philadelphia offered Amazon three options for where it could put down roots within the city: The Navy Yard, Schuylkill Yards and uCity Square. Amazon would be joining the likes of Urban Outfitters at the Navy Yard. uCity Square is a development between about 34th and Market and 37th and Lancaster Avenue, and would have room for an additional 8.4 million square feet of office space. Schuylkill Yards is a proposed development adjacent to 30th Street Station. Amazon would be among the first companies there.

$1 billion in tax incentives

Philly’s publicly released info on its bid doesn’t include the amount of money the state and city would give up for Amazon, but Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce President Rob Wonderling told the Inquirer the amount would be $1 billion. The $1 billion is far more than any other company has received in Philadelphia but less than the $1.6B over 25 years awarded to Shell, which built a plant in Western Pennsylvania. Councilman David Oh has also proposed legislation that could save Amazon $2B.

The amount is far lower than what some competitors have offered or will offer. New Jersey, for instance, promised $7 billion in incentives. Given Pennsylvania’s high corporate tax and Philadelphia’s wage and gross receipts taxes, Amazon would likely need to choose Philadelphia on its other strengths.


Philadelphia basically bragged to Amazon that it is far more livable and inexpensive than New York or Washington DC but is extremely close to those cities. It highlighted the 75-minute train ride to NYC, 100-minute ride to Washington, 15-minute ride to the airport from downtown and offered testimony from businesspeople about the importance of this central location. The city’s been on a social media tear talking about what Philly can offer employees at HQ2.

Johnny Doc and other political support

Building and Construction Trades Council president and top union leader John Dougherty — yes, that guy being investigated by the feds — sent a particularly long letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos that was featured as part of Philly’s proposal. Dougherty wrote that he gifted Bezos Sixers, Eagles, Phillies and Flyers jerseys. He also left Bezos his email address and cell phone number.

Dozens of other letters to Bezos were attached, including one from Jeffrey Lurie of the Eagles and the Sixers’ president of business operations. Amazon even got some bipartisanship: One letter was signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, Sens. Pat Toomey and Bob Casey, and several members of Congress.

Educated workforce

Philly pointed outs its more than 100 area colleges and universities, with a particular emphasis on Penn. Amy Gutmann, the school’s president, wrote a letter to Bezos, mentioning she had been provost at his alma mater, Princeton, and telling him to call her if she could be of any assistance.

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