Georgia Power CEO: Pitch for Amazon HQ2 about showing Atlanta’s ‘heart’

2:46 p.m Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 Business
Georgia Power CEO Paul Bowers speaks with reporters and editors of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (William Thweatt William.Thweatt@coxinc.com)

If you had the opportunity to show Amazon around Atlanta as it hunts for a site for its second headquarters and 50,000 jobs — where would you take the e-commerce giant?

For Paul Bowers, CEO of Georgia Power, such a visit wouldn’t just entail tours of land and shimmering glass office towers that might be suitable for HQ2. To sell the Seattle behemoth on metro Atlanta, Bowers said in a recent meeting of reporters and editors of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, state and local officials and business leaders will have to show both the tangibles and intangibles of the region.

It’s art. It’s the Beltline’s cool, as well as its future promise. It’s the network of innovation centers clustered around Georgia Tech. It’s showing Amazon the efforts to rebuild Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods.

It’s about the corporate and community culture and how a company like Amazon might mesh.

“I think those attributes have swayed a lot of executives to come here,” Bowers said. “We’ve been on a roll with announcements lately. The heart of Atlanta is bigger than just a site.”

On Oct. 19, Georgia delivered its bid to Amazon’s Seattle offices, joining more than 230 other bidders for arguably the largest jobs prize in recent memory. Site visits are expected soon.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Could the Atlanta Beltline be a major selling point for Amazon’s second headquarters? (Jenni Girtman / Atlanta Event Photography)

Amazon’s public wish list is broad: It wants mass transit access and sites near highways. Room to expand its campus to 8 million square feet, or something the size of six Bank of America Plaza towers. Proximity to a bustling international airport.

It needs coders, programmers, engineers and loads of executive talent.

Amazon has made it clear that it needs 500,000 square feet to 750,000 square feet immediately, and about that much in additional space every 18 months through 2027.

Those needs could be fulfilled by both existing buildings or new ones.

“Given the publicly stated goals of Amazon: we tick all the boxes,” Intercontinental Exchange CEO Jeff Sprecher said this month before the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s annual meeting.

Little is known about the package Georgia offered, but people familiar with the situation said it touted dozens of potential sites, included descriptions of high-dollar incentive programs, current and future transportation investments and touted the region’s cultural touchstones. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at the time called the pitch “the most aggressive economic attraction package that the state of Georgia has ever put forward.”

Georgia Power plays an outsize role in the state’s economic development apparatus, helping companies and the state find sites that fit prospects’ needs and providing the power for their operations.

Ben Gray/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Downtown Atlanta’s gulch could be a prime site for Amazon’s second headquarters. CIM Group of Los Angeles is pursuing a massive mixed-use development near Philips Arena that could be attractive to Amazon. Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com

Bowers didn’t divulge any secrets about the state’s overtures to Amazon, but as an executive at a Fortune 500 company, and as a critical player in Georgia’s all-hands-on-deck approach to wooing Amazon, his thoughts provide critical context to the thinking of government and business leaders who participated in the process.

The Georgia Department of Economic Development is leading the recruiting effort, leaning on Georgia Power’s business recruitment team, the economic development divisions of other major utilizes, as well as local agencies such as Invest Atlanta, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and major corporations.

A real estate task force led by Cousins Properties CEO Larry Gellerstedt helped examine the potential sites.

“I think our team did an outstanding job,” Bowers said.

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