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Hey Amazon, why not La.?

October 25, 2017

USA Today

New Orleans and Baton Rouge each made bids for Amazon's "HQ2," the biggest economic development plum in years, but Louisiana's best shot may be for a consolation prize.

Amazon said 238 cities and regions entered the sweepstakes for the company's second North American headquarters, which will create 50,000 jobs and a $5 billion investment.

The company's requirement for a population of 1 million would be a reach, although New Orleans' metropolitan statistical area tops 1 million and Baton Rouge's metro population is about 835,000.

Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson he can't discuss "active projects, but certainly we will be very supportive of locations in Louisiana that would bring in well-paying jobs and investment."

Michael Olivier, who was economic development secretary under former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, said even if Louisiana can't land the headquarters, a good pitch could lay the groundwork for landing a distribution center.

"The real benefit of being engaged in the competition is to get the company's attention for a possible fulfillment center," said Olivier, now president and chief executive of the Committee of 100 for Economic Development in Louisiana.

Olivier said those "fulfillment centers" typically employ as many as 400 workers.

He said Louisiana's ports and extensive railroads lend themselves to such distribution points.

"That's definitely within the realm of possibilities, even if the actual headquarters is a long shot," Olivier said.

Among the few states without a bid: Montana; North Dakota; South Dakota; Vermont; Wyoming; and, famously, Arkansas, which placed a full-page ad last week in The Washington Post saying, "our lack of traffic and ease of getting around would be totally wrecked, and we can’t sacrifice that for you."

One city, Stonecrest, Ga., offered to set aside land and give it the city name of "Amazon."

Bezos said HQ2 won't be a satellite to the Seattle headquarters, where 40,000 workers are employed.

"We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters," Bezos said. "We're excited to find a second home."

The company will announce its choice in 2018.

USA Today contributed to this report.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1

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