RI's pitch for Amazon HQ2 included 'Superman' building
Rhode Island officials tried to lure Amazon to build its second headquarters in the state by offering the long-vacant "Superman building" as a base, pitching its low-cost proximity to Northeast hubs like Boston and New York and promising to strengthen its infrastructure.
Those details were included in the state's pitch, released this week by the Rhode Island Commerce Corp.
The state refused to release the bid for months, even after it failed to make the short list of 20 cities Amazon announced in January. It revealed the pitch this week after The Providence Journal filed an open records complaint with the attorney general.
"While Rhode Island was still involved in the competition, we didn't want to divulge too much publicly so as to preserve our competitive position," Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor said Friday.
Pryor also told NBC 10 News he believes the effort was not a waste.
“It certainly has been beneficial to at least take a shot,” he said. “We’re in the game. There’s been, too, long a period of time when Rhode Island just wasn’t in the game. We’ve got to be out there, we have to be advocating. That’s how opportunities get created.”
He went on to note that some elements developed for the Amazon pitch are being used by the state.
“The ‘fun-size’ motto that we’ve used as one of the concepts for our tourism campaign,” he said. “That was actually originated, it was debuted, it went out as part of the Amazon website that was put out there months ago."
The state's proposed financial incentives for the company, which it dubbed "Responsi-Bold Incentives," were redacted in the released version.
Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo told The Providence Journal the state didn't want other companies to know what it's willing to offer.
Though the numbers are blacked out, the pitch called the incentives package "highly competitive and reliable."
"Our incentive offer speaks to this bold, thoughtful approach: we offer Amazon a generous financial package, one that will support Amazon's needs as well as secure Amazon's long-term fiscal and political position in Rhode Island," according to the proposal, which can be seen in its entirety here.
The pitch claimed a site in Rhode Island's tallest building, also known as 111 Westminster and vacant since Bank of America left in 2013, would have allowed the company to move in within 14 months.
It called for a 120,000 square-foot expansion and included a rendering of the building with a new "crystalline" facade, while offering an additional 500,000 square feet at "an undeveloped site next door."
Pryor said the Superman building is an important part of the city’s past and future.
“The Superman building defines the skyline in our capital city," he said. "There are multiple interested parties, there have been over these past several years. We continue active conversations with some interested parties.”
The bid also proposed large-scale development downtown near the Providence Train Station. That campus could have surrounded the Statehouse, according to the proposal, so the headquarters "would become physically synonymous with the State of Rhode Island."
Other development locations included the Jewelry District, Harris Avenue, and Pawtucket and Central Falls.
To improve transportation, the plan also would have expanded ferry service across Narragansett Bay and initiated helicopter service to Boston Logan and New York's John F. Kennedy airports.
In February, after Rhode Island failed to make the short list, Raimondo said on an appearance with WGBH's Boston Public Radio that her team was speaking with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's administration about participating in Boston's bid, which did make the short list.
Pryor declined to offer any details Friday.
"I can tell you we believe it would be advantageous for Rhode Island if Boston were to be chosen," Pryor said.
(NBC 10 News contributed to this report.)