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IL Has Put Together A Committee Of 600 People (!) To Lure Amazon To Chicago

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 27, 2017 4:39PM

Amazon HQ1, Seattle / Getty Images / Photo: David Ryder

"Full-court press" seems like an understatement, as former vacation pals-turned-rivals Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner found common ground to announce a mammoth committee, of 600-plus members, to help lure Amazon's coveted second headquarters to Chicago.

The lineup is heavy on business and non-profit leaders, and also includes representatives from religious, arts-and-culture and educational arenas. It'll be co-chaired by four bigwigs from investment and business arenas: Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines.; Penny Pritzker of PSP Capital; Jim Reynolds, Chairman and CEO of Loop Capital; and Miles White, Chairman and CEO of Abbott.

Emanuel, who has not been bashful about his desire to land Amazon's HQ2 in Chicago, said in a release:

“This unprecedented coalition brings together the public and private sectors with education, community and faith leaders to speak with a powerful, unified voice that says that Chicago is the ideal location for Amazon to build its new home and continue to grow for generations. As we prepare the bid to bring Amazon home to Chicago, this committee will highlight the region’s competitiveness and strength as a national and global leader in business, education, research, culture and quality of life."

The announcement comes the same day as the deadline for potential Chicago locations to submit their nominations to the city. Commonly floated possibilities include the under-renovation Old Main Post Office (of which we just saw some intriguing leaked renderings); the old Michael Reese Hospital campus; the great lost urban wilderness known as Rezkvoville; and the old Finkl Steel site, recently rebranded as Lincoln Yards, whose developers have also expressed their hopes of acting as an Amazon magnet, among others.

Chicago of course is hardly the only city to go all out for Jeff Bezo's potentially transformative corporate benediction, given the company's promise of 50,000 high-paying jobs. The New York Times chronicled various contortions by civic leaders across the country in an article called "Nothing Is Too Strange for Cities Wooing Amazon to Build There." Attention-seeking moves range from wacky (a 21-foot cactus gift from Tuscon) to fervent (Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, in Detroit, pledging to temporarily relocate tenants so employees don't have to wait around for construction). Our neighbors in Gary, IN memorably placed an ad in the Times.

Some critics have cautioned against a fevered courting of Amazon, citing the potential for skyrocketing rents and the likelihood of having to grant a major—if not record-breaking—tax break. Something the literally hundreds of people involved should be mulling.