Could Amazon's second headquarters be coming to Tennessee?
The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce submitted a proposal to the tech giant to try and lure the company to build its second headquarters, HQ2, in the Scruffy City.
Amazon asked cities from around the country to submit proposals for HQ2. The company lists their preferences in the proposal submission instructions for what attributes they want their next headquarter location to have.
So we wanted to verify, does Knoxville have the qualities Amazon wants for the second headquarter city?
To help answer our questions, we spoke to Doug Lawyer, the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Economic Development. We also talked with Dr. Bill Fox, a Professor at the University of Tennessee and the Director at the Boyd Center of Business and Economic Research. We also went over Amazon's proposal submission form to see what they're looking for in their new city.
First, we'll examine population.
Amazon says they are looking for a city with more than 1 million people. The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce says the city has about 185,000 people. Add in Knox County and the number jumps to 480,000. In the metro region, there are about 850,000 people.
We can verify that Knoxville does not meet that preference. However, Lawyer says there is room for growth.
"Amazon should come to Knoxville because we have the best location in the Eastern United States," Lawyer said. "As our population continues to grow, we're going to get closer to that million mark in the region."
Next, let's look at land.
Amazon is looking for land where they can build their new headquarters. The land has to be able to sustain at minimum a 500,000 square foot building and one up to 8 million square feet.
The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce has already set aside a 100 acre site off of Highway 40.
We can verify the city does have the land for the project.
Next, a workforce.
Amazon says they plan to hire 50,000 people in whichever city they choose.
While Knoxville cannot accommodate this large number, Fox said very few cities can.
"If they're looking for up to 50,000 employees, they're not going to find those people available in the Knoxville market. But that's probably true wherever they locate," said Dr. Fox. "We do need to be realistic there is a lot of competition out there. Still, Knoxville offers some nice attributes."
Amazon also wants to build their headquarters in a city with a strong technical talent. Knoxville is home to the University of Tennessee and near the Oak Ridge National Lab.
We can verify that the city would fulfill Amazon's preference to have technical talent in the area.
Amazon is also looking for a city with an international airport in close proximity. Knoxville does not have that.
However, the city does have a public transportation system, which is on Amazon's wish list.
In summary, we can verify that Knoxville offers some selling points for Amazon, but cannot meet some major requirements.
"Even if we don't land the headquarter project, maybe there are some spin off projects, maybe this gets on the radar of some other companies," Lawyer said. "We stand a better chance by submitting that if we hadn't."
The chamber hopes to hear back from Amazon by the end of the year.