County angling for Amazon HQ2

Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

One of the world's biggest companies could be setting up shop in Simcoe County.

Amazon, which currently has Canadian locations in Toronto and Vancouver and employs more than 380,000 people world-wide, sent out a request for proposals, for its second headquarters in North America, dubbed Amazon HQ2. It's estimated HQ2 will generate up to 50,000 local jobs.

Among the flood of cities and regions unveiling proposals on deadline day, October 18, was the County of Simcoe. Warden Gerry Marshall talked about the County's submission, titled “North of Ordinary,” at the G&C Jet Centre hangar at Lake Simcoe Regional Airport in Oro-Medonte.

“This is a pitch that competes with locations all across North America who are vying for Amazon's attention. Everything Amazon is looking for, we have – the lands, the planned development, a growing workforce, and a population that is expected to double from 465,000 to almost 800,000 by 2041,” Marshall said.

The sites are all in the south end of the County,  and meet Amazon's requirements: close to a major highway network (Hwy. 400), within 45 minutes of Pearson International  and Billy Bishop airports, with 120 acres  of greenfield development lands, access to mass transit, and access to over 1 million people within a 30 mile radius.

The County RFP included 3 sites in Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil. One site, owned by DG Group, is identified as 2413 Sideroad 5, south of the Hwy. 400 and 88 interchange in BWG. An Innisfil property on Line 6 is owned by Cortel Group. The location of the third property has not been released.

“The County of Simcoe is open for business and offers an experience truly 'north of ordinary.' Our communities provide affordable lifestyles with an abundance of infrastructure, transportation, amenities, services and an educated, hard-working and growing workforce,” Marshall said. “We have one united goal, to foster an environment that provides the absolute best opportunity for Amazon and all our businesses to thrive.”

Cheaper housing prices, provincial health care and educational opportunities, with Georgian College and Lakehead University located nearby, were also cited.

“When we stitch that together, we have a tremendous story to tell,” said Rachel Sullivan, manager of economic development for the County.

In making its pitch, the County worked with the federal government's Global Affairs Canada department, and the Ontario Investment office of the provincial ministry of economic development and growth.

Amazon's capital investment could total over $15 billion, over 15-17 years. Phase 1 is expected to require 500,000 sq. ft.; by build-out, that could reach 8 million sq. ft.

A response from Amazon is expected in 2018.