Amazon has transformed the consumer marketplace and launched such innovations as the Kindle, Amazon Prime and Amazon Echo.
But can the online shopping giant achieve something truly revolutionary? Can it prompt political rivals Gov. Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emanuel to put their differences aside?
The former friends turned political adversaries both say they are committed to helping bring Amazon’s second headquarters to Chicago.
How much they plan to work together to achieve the No. 1 item on their wish list remains to be seen.
The $5 billion headquarters would net the city as many as 50,000 jobs, Emanuel said last week in disclosing his conversations with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
Rauner, too, is personally courting senior Amazon executives, and working with the City of Chicago to submit proposals in an effort to get Amazon to build the company’s second North American headquarters in Chicago.
Rauner, who left on Sept. 9 for his first overseas trip as governor in an effort to lure businesses to Illinois, told WBEZ on Monday night that he’s courting Amazon.
“I have personally been talking to senior executives at Amazon myself,” Rauner said in a phone interview from Tokyo. “Our economic development team at Intersect Illinois and our Department of Commerce is working very closely with the Amazon executives.”
The governor said his administration is working with the City of Chicago’s economic development team and “regional teams” around the state to produce a package of proposals to be submitted to Amazon in October.
The question now will be whether Rauner and Emanuel, former friends who have spent years at each other’s throats, can join forces on a competitive incentive package that offers Amazon what matters even more than city and state subsidies: a stable political climate that provides a good place to run a business.
Last week, City Hall disclosed that Emanuel has already had several conversations with Bezos. Emanuel has been aggressive and highly successful in winning a parade of corporate headquarters to downtown Chicago.
Bezos has described the project as a “full equal” to Amazon’s sprawling Seattle headquarters. That would be the mother lode for any politician, no less a governor embroiled in a heated re-election campaign and a mayor contemplating a third term.
Boeing’s world headquarters was lured to Chicago with a $61 million package of state and city incentives. Chicago won that corporate sweepstakes after Boeing orchestrated a very public headquarters derby involving Chicago, Dallas and Denver.
As an attorney specializing in zoning, land use planning and historic preservation, Chicago’s Planning and Development Commissioner David Reifman helped nail down the state and local incentives that convinced Boeing to move its world headquarters to Chicago.
On Tuesday, Reifman refused to say what, if any, incentives the city was prepared to offer to Amazon. Nor would he talk about specific sites.
He would only say, “We’re gonna make a huge effort to get it of course. It’s very important to us.”
Mayoral spokesman Grant Klinzman said the city’s response to Amazon’s request for proposals is being led by Deputy Mayor Robert Rivkin, who is “coordinating with city departments, sister agencies, private sector leaders, Chicago area counties and the State of Illinois.”
Sites being talked about for the headquarters include the North Branch Industrial corridor. That’s 760 acres of protected industrial land near the Chicago River that the City Council recently opened to residential and commercial use. Other possibilities include the Old Main Post Office, the Michael Reese Hospital site, a 62-acre South Loop parcel once owned by convicted developer Tony Rezko and the McCormick Place East site that Emanuel offered to demolish in a failed attempt to keep the Lucas Museum in Chicago.