Amazon's second headquarters isn't coming to Buffalo.
The online retailer on Thursday narrowed its list of potential sites for its highly sought second headquarters to 20 cities in the United States and Canada. Buffalo isn't on it, and neither is Rochester, which teamed up to submit a joint bid for the project, with the encouragement and support of the state.
Toronto did make the list, as the only Canadian city to make it through to the second round.
"We're disappointed, because we always go into every search thinking we can win," said Thomas Kucharski, president and CEO of Invest Buffalo Niagara, which worked with Greater Rochester Enterprise on the joint bid. "I think we can compete together with a lot of those that made the final list."
The two organizations thought they were still in the running until Thursday's announcement. Nevertheless, he added, it wasn't a wasted effort, and could help the region in the future.
"We think we made headway to compete for other opportunities in this sector," Kucharski said. "We think we have a really good story to tell, and we're going to continue to tell that story. The exercise is a valuable one. … This is one project. There will be others."
The list of 20 was dominated by bigger, faster-growing cities, from New York City and Boston, to Austin, Texas, and Chicago. Also making the list were Columbus, Ohio, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis. Newark, N.J., which took the unusual step of detailing the rich incentive package it offered to Amazon, also made the cut.
Nashville was the smallest metro area on the list, with 1.83 million people in a 13-county region. Indianapolis has 2 million, Columbus has 2.02 million and Pittsburgh has 2.36 million.
The Western New York bid was largely viewed as a long shot, especially because of the perceived shortage of labor.
But that's not the way the two economic development organizations saw it. Kucharski said they heard that directly from the company early in the process, and insisted that "we absolutely did" have a chance. "We didn't get any indication of them that they weren't looking at our proposal," he said.
Local officials had hoped that by submitting a joint bid between Buffalo and Rochester that the Western New York region could overcome some of its shortcomings, including a small pool of available workers and a difficult challenge in attracting new talent to the region.
“We’re disappointed that Buffalo isn’t in the next round for Amazon’s HQ2," said Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. "This would have been another transformational opportunity for our city, but with the nearly $7 billion in economic development underway, our momentum will not slow down.”
Kucharski and GRE President and CEO Matt Hurlbutt said many people took notice of the partnership between the two cities. Kucharski cited a report by NBC News at one point that called attention to the joint bid "as being unique and visionary, as two regions working together."
"The fact that we came together and put together a great proposal got a lot of people's attention, and we're working together collectively in a lot of areas," Hurlbutt said. "We do work together and know each other pretty well. We continue to be busy on other projects."
In fact, Hurlbutt said the two cities have been working together for quite some time to recruit businesses to the larger region, "but it just wasn't public." He cited Mueller Dairy and other food, beverage and advanced manufacturing opportunities.
"This project was not the initiation of our collaboration. It was really putting it into hyperdrive," Kucharski agreed. "When we do market the region, we do it together. It's a story that works well. We do have complementary center of excellence and academia."
That effort will continue, both said.
"We have continued to meet after the proposal was submitted, to beef up aspects of that proposal, and we continue to work on projects as we speak," Kucharski said.
Amazon, which had promised to bring as many as 50,000 new jobs to its second headquarters, has said that it wants a metropolitan area with at least 1 million people, and the combined Buffalo-Rochester area has more than 2.2 million residents, putting it in the same category as Pittsburgh.
"Both of our areas made the cut as far as size. By putting us together, we upped our chance," Kucharski said.
The company also wants access to a highly educated labor pool and to be located near a strong university system – something that the joint proposal hoped to address by combining universities such as the University at Buffalo with resources from the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology, along with more than 60 other colleges and universities. Amazon also had said it wanted to be in a place where it can attract top technical talent, and that offers a wide array of recreational and educational opportunities.
"Obviously, it's disappointing when you miss on something like this," said A.J. Baynes, the new president and CEO of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce. But "you're never going to get ahead unless you step in the batter's box. Everyone who was involved took it seriously, and they shouldn't be embarrassed by this. It is what it is at this point, and anytime something like this comes out, it's worth us taking a hard look and putting something together."
Kucharski still sees still opportunities to capture future growth by Amazon.
"This is a very unique process," Kucharski said. "Nobody's seen anything like this, a project of this size go through a process like this. You give it your best shot, and you don't really know what the biggest drivers are going to be."
Here is the list of the 20 cities remaining in the running for Amazon's second headquarters:
- Columbus, Ohio
- Indianapolis, Ind.
- Los Angeles
- New York City
- Newark, N.J.
- Mongtomery County, Md.
- Washington, D.C.
- Raleigh, N.C.
- Northern Virginia