Editorial: If Amazon comes to Denver, it could be a double-edged opportunity
September 12, 2017
News broke recently that Amazon, the online retail giant, is looking for a second headquarters to augment its current home in Seattle.
The company sent out an eight-page list of requirements as part of the announcement, in what appears to be a not-so-veiled attempt at prompting a tax-incentive bidding war among the country's major metropolitan areas.
In an effort to predict the outcome of the competition to come, a team of New York Times reporters took a look at the requirements and then studied census data, housing prices, city amenities and other factors. They then predicted a winner: Denver.
That news, as well as Denver Mayor Michael Hancock's stated willingness to dive earnestly into the competition, must have fired the salivary glands of economic-development types around the state.
After all, we're talking about a roughly $5 billion investment, 50,000 well-paid jobs and the need for about 8 million square feet of office and warehouse space. Presumably, much of that would be new construction. For comparison's sake, the Times story notes the Pentagon is about 6.6 million square feet.
Whatever city lands Amazon II will have plucked a nearly unprecedented economic plum.
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While we won't be involved in the bidding, those of us in mountain resort areas need to keep a keen eye on the coming Amazon Olympics.
Around 100,000 people per year are already moving into Colorado. Most of those people live between Colorado Springs and Fort Collins. That's why Interstate 25 is such a pain to navigate most days.
If Amazon does come, then it will certainly tap the Front Range labor market. But you can expect an influx of thousands of new residents. A lot of those people will want to come to the mountains to play — after all, that's one of Denver's big attractions.
Those new people will be welcomed as both visitors and potential second-home owners, of course. But those new guests will add still more traffic to the weekend crush on Interstate 70.
And, while Amazon boss Jeff Bezos is a billionaire many times over, it's doubtful he'd dedicate a good portion of his fortune to help fund a multi-billion-dollar rail system that the state of Colorado simply can't afford.
Beyond weekend traffic, a large, Denver-based fulfillment center would probably put even more trucks on the I-70 mountain corridor. Drone delivery is still in the visible future.
Amazon in Denver would mean more people on ski slopes, more people in hotel rooms and restaurants and more vehicles on the roads. That's going to bring grousing, and not just from the usual "not in my back yard" crowd.
The potential opportunity from Amazon II is mind-boggling. But the potential impacts are pretty mind-boggling, too.
Communities along the I-70 corridor would be well-served to start thinking now about the best ways to accommodate this potential new group of visitors.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.