The genesis of this column came from two sources. First, a very well written article in the New York Times entitled: Amazon plans second headquarters, opening a bidding war among cities. Secondly, from my Orange County Register editor who posed the question, “where would Amazon locate if they chose Orange County?”
Clearly, Amazon’s footprint in the Seattle area is massive – close to 80,000 folks draw a paycheck and consumed is about 20 percent of the available prime office space in the city – roughly equivalent to 8 million square feet of space! Imagine the chaos created if Amazon were to vacate even half of that occupied space. Incredible.
For the HQ2, Amazon’s plan would include 50,000 new hires and a facility to house them. Close to an international airport, skilled labor, affordable housing, access to mass transit, fiber optic capabilities, and a business-friendly environment are all on Amazon’s checklist – with all the appurtenant goodies states like Texas seem willing to dole out: tax breaks, free land, employee relocation expenses, no state income taxes, cameo with the governor, etc.
Although many of the checklist items can be found in the Orange County — labor, airport, fiber — California has shunned economic incentives with the abolition of redevelopment districts and enterprise zones. Gone are the halcyon days of California cities writing a check for the promise of future sales tax and incremental property tax revenue increases — the proverbial “I scratch your back” scenario.
So, where would Amazon go in the highly unlikely event the O.C. was in the running?
Well, it depends.
On what, you ask? On the type of facility they are seeking. It appears the new headquarters would house several engineers and skilled labor – therefore a facility much like Broadcom abandoned when they were recently acquired. Let’s do the math: 50,000 employees at 100 square feet each would require around 5 million square feet of office or flex industrial space — like those that litter the Irvine Spectrum.
A quick search yielded zero existing occupied or vacant buildings that could garner that amount of footage in the county. Therefore, someone would have to build a compound for Amazon. If we stacked the building with two stories, this new construction would require close to 100 buildable acres – roughly the size of the old Boeing campus in…