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Minnesota's restrained bid for Amazon headquarters ready to send

ST. PAUL—When the state of Minnesota sends its bid to become digital retailing giant Amazon's new home base, the package will be full of facts but without the hoopla other regions have rolled out to land the project known as HQ2.

Washington, D.C.'s mayor prepared a video of herself asking Amazon's Alexa about the new headquarters; an Arizona region sent a cactus to Amazon's Washington headquarters; and Birmingham, Ala., set up Amazon delivery boxes around town and created a Dash button-themed social-media campaign.

But Minnesota, which will beat Amazon's Thursday, Oct. 19, deadline for bids by one day, isn't going to roll out the flash so soon.

"That's not the Minnesota way," Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Shawntera Hardy said Monday, Oct. 16.

Instead, Minnesota will forward a package that promotes the state's educated workforce, transportation amenities, site options and the existing corporate headquarters. The bid will not include any over-the-top tax breaks, other than listing what the state already offers any developments. It will offer Amazon a range of possible locations in metropolitan Minnesota, without pinpointing just one.

"We are not going to change the name of a city to 'Amazon.' That's not the way we do things. I think it's way too early for hoopla. Our job is to be very professional, very complete, very precise and give them the information that they asked for," said Greater MSP CEO Michael Langley. Greater MSP is a regional development organizations for the Twin Cities area.

Amazon has asked for, and has largely gotten, confidentiality from Minnesota and the other areas preparing bids.

The Seattle company announced publicly on Sept. 7 that it was seeking to bids for a second North American headquarters. The new region would have to have at least 1 million residents, access to transportation and transit, and space to grow—the company said it wanted 500,000 square feet to start and about 100 acres eventually. The company said it would spend between $300 million and $600 million in the near term and up to $5 billion, employing 50,000 people, eventually, on the new site.

Both Greater MSP and the state's development agency have been working intently on preparing the state's bid since the online behemoth announced six weeks ago that it was seeking a second headquarters, Langley said. Officials have talked to Amazon about its needs, pulled together the region's offerings and checked with other major Minnesota institutions—such as the University of Minnesota—on details they will give to Amazon.

"It's been a full-time effort on behalf of both of our teams," Langley said, standing beside Hardy as they left a Monday afternoon meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton.

In the end, on Wednesday, Oct. 18, the state will get Amazon five hard copies of the bid and make it available to the company through other means.

"There are a number of techniques we are using to ensure that they have every way that they can to receive this information," Langley said. But even what those techniques are is hush-hush.

"I'm not going to tell you our competitive edge," Langley said, when asked about them.