Chattanooga would benefit from Amazon HQ2, experts say

Chattanooga would benefit from Amazon HQ2, experts say

January 19th, 2018by Mike Parein Business Around the Region

Chattanooga would gain from Nashville or Atlanta landing Amazon's $5 billion second headquarters, drawing talent to the Scenic City as well as support firms and staff, experts say.

"It's such a marquee deal," said David DeVaney, president of NAI Charter Real Estate Corp. "The sphere of influence of a project of that magnitude, it would drift to Chattanooga."

Charles Wood, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president for economic development, said he thinks the biggest opportunity would be to grab talented people from the technology and business sectors.

David DeVaney

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

"To me, that would be a huge win," he said. "There'd be a lot of talent leakage out of the company."

The Amazon project is expected to create 50,000 new tech-oriented jobs from the world's largest internet retailer.

Also, Amazon calculates that, based on the impact its Seattle headquarters had there between 2010 and 2016, HQ2 would add $38 billion to the local economy, create 53,000 non-Amazon jobs and boost the personal income of non-Amazon employees by a combines total of $17 billion.

Each of the 20 announced finalists met Amazon's criteria of a metro area with more than 1 million people, a major airport and the ability to attract and retain strong technical talent.

Wood said that wooing Amazon would give the region a big win when it comes to attracting a tech giant, prompting other companies to take a look.

Most of the big tech firms are affiliated with the West Coast," he said. "For the Southeast to have a large tech name decide on a headquarters in the Southeast, that would be tremendous."

He compared such a scenario to how the region has attracted the auto industry.

"Once you get one, you start to pick up others," Wood said. "The potential is that you'd see more of a comfort level."

DeVaney, too, cited the auto industry illustration, saying support companies and people would come to the area if Amazon's HQ2 comes.

Charles Wood

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

"There would be other support jobs supporting Amazon," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind it would have a positive influence."

DeVaney said that Amazon will conduct a detailed site selection process for the headquarters. If such a project lands within 100 miles of Chattanooga, it shows that this part of the Southeast is "doing things correctly," he said.

Other companies that can't afford such a sophisticated analysis would follow Amazon's lead, DeVaney said.

Wood said both Nashville and Atlanta have chances to win the Amazon HQ2.

In Atlanta, Georgia Tech is "a huge calling card," he said. Wood also cited the Atlanta airport, which is the nation's busiest.

Nashville, meanwhile, is seen as "an up and comer," he said. Amazon is a company of entrepreneurs and landing in Nashville may be a fit, Wood said.

DeVaney said he thinks both cities have "a very good chance." Each has quality of life, viable land locations, and cost of living advantages, he said.

The challenge for Amazon, no matter what city it picks, will be to find 50,000 qualified employees, DeVaney said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.