Sununu says N.H. ‘aggressively’ pursuing new Amazon HQ

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in Seattle in a June 2014 file image. In a press release Thursday, Amazon announced it is planning to build a second, “equal” headquarters in another city. (Ken Lambert/Seattle Times/TNS) Ken Lambert

  • Gov. Chris Sununu speaks with the Monitor in Bedford on Tuesday, April. 11, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

For the Monitor​​​​​​
Published: 9/19/2017 6:06:14 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu says he’s personally involved with an aggressive bid by New Hampshire to land Amazon’s second global headquarters, and has met with Jeff Bezos, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of the online retail behemoth.

In an interview with the Monitor, Sununu said pro-business moves in the first year of his administration have put New Hampshire “in a better position today than ever before to even make that type of attempt to bringing in the headquarters of the world’s largest company.”

Sununu, the state’s first Republican governor in a dozen years, jabbed at his Democratic predecessors in the corner office, saying “this state couldn’t even compete for that a few years ago.”

The Seattle-based Amazon is promising to invest up to $5 billion in whatever community it eventually chooses to be the home of its second headquarters, which it says will employ up to 50,000 people. More than 100 sites across the United States, and even some Canadian provinces, are interested in bidding for what’s being called “HQ2.”

The top four Democrats in the State House, in a letter to Sununu last week, urged the governor to “find a way to meet with Amazon in person to deliver the message they want to hear.”

Sununu said he’s doing just that.

“I met Jeff Bezos a few months back and we’ve made an initial phone call out to his team that is leading this effort, making sure we understand some of the stipulations that they’re looking for, and we’re putting a package together now,” Sununu said Tuesday.

Amazon has “a very high bar that you have to meet in terms of location, availability of infrastructure,” Sununu explained. “We’re going to aggressively go after it. We think we can make a very viable case. It’s a very heavy lift for any governor.”

Sununu said New Hampshire is in a better position to compete against other states to land Amazon, thanks to moves by his office and the Republican-controlled Legislature.

“With what we’ve done with business taxes, with what we’ve done with driving some of the other high-tech companies into New Hampshire – creating a brand if you will – we’re getting more known for driving more of those kinds of companies here,” he said. “And now having the regulatory flexibility that we’re creating, there’s just so much more potential here to even have an opportunity to compete against some of those larger cities across the country for that type of opportunity.”

Sununu said that he’s working directly on the bid with Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the state’s Department of Business and Economic Affairs.

Highlighting the creation of that department earlier this year, Sununu said “that alone shows our focus on business and workforce trying to coordinate all these pieces that haven’t been coordinated before. We’re finally doing that in this state. And that sends a great message to a lot of these businesses.”

“That goes a long way with these folks,” he added.

Sununu made workforce development and attracting new businesses and jobs to New Hampshire a major part of his campaign for governor last year.

Last December, Sununu criticized newly elected U.S senator and outgoing Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan for failing to land General Electric’s new international headquarters. The Connecticut-based company ended up relocating to Boston.

Sununu said that Hassan sent “three bureaucrats” to GE to make the pitch. Hassan responded that she did visit GE in person and that Sununu was “highly misinformed.”

She added that New Hampshire couldn’t match the more than $100 million Massachusetts was offering in incentives.

In a letter to Sununu last week, Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn, Deputy Democratic leader Donna Soucy of the state Senate, as well as House Minority Leader Steve Shurtleff and his deputy, Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, took a jab at Sununu, writing, “Don’t send the ‘bureaucrats’ you have decried in the past as insufficient messengers for New Hampshire.”

Sununu told the Monitor that when it comes to pitching Amazon, “it’s not about getting a bunch of bureaucrats in the room to sell the idea to a company. We’re bringing our business leaders in, those who have created jobs in New Hampshire. Those who understand the dynamics of this state and how it works, to help make that argument for us.”

The governor said the Hassan administration “had their way of doing economic development, and I just don’t think it was very effective. We have our way of doing it and we’re really moving the ball forward.”

Sununu added that it’s not all about offering incentives, saying that large companies “want to see states that are investing in their workforce for the long term, not just giving short-term incentives.”

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