Lots of People Own Second Homes in New Hampshire. Why Not Amazon?

Sep 27, 2017

Governor Chris Sununu appears on Fox Business show The Intelligence Report With Trish Regan to discuss Amazon.

Earlier this month, Amazon announced plans to build what it’s calling an ‘HQ2.’ The online book seller-turned-online superstore has outgrown its Seattle headquarters, and it’s now accepting proposals from cities and states for a second home or sorts: one which would house as many as 50,000 employees.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu and a group of residents are of the opinion Amazon should seriously consider the Granite State. NHPR’s Todd Bookman speaks with Morning Edition’s Rick Ganley about what’s at stake here.

 (This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)

So, what’s Governor Sununu’s pitch here?

It’s basically an updated version of this idea of “the New Hampshire advantage.” It’s selling the state based on its relative high quality of life combined with  low overall taxes. It’s access to beaches, mountains, lakes, but also, an educated workforce, low poverty rates and limited government. It’s the same ad campaign the state has been running since the 1990s.

This is not the first time Sununu has tried to woo a business to New Hampshire…

That’s right. You may remember during his campaign in 2016, Sununu promised to visit 100 out-of-state companies in 100 days and try to lure them to New Hampshire. Amazon is on a completely different scale, of course. But he’s tried to bill himself as a recruiter-in-chief; as the state’s biggest cheerleader. This would be his white whale, though.

So how exactly is Sununu going about this long shot effort?

Sununu has been openly wooing Amazon in interviews, including earlier this week on the Fox Business channel.

“Yeah, southern New Hampshire because it is still part of, still about a half-hour outside of the Greater Boston metropolitan area, so we are part of that Greater Boston area, without the burdens of the traffic and taxes and all those things that trouble large major cities, so we really have the best of both worlds,” said Sununu.

And I should mention here that Sununu was a guest on the Intelligence Report, an afternoon show hosted by Trish Regan. Regan, born and raised in New Hampshire...perhaps, the only person with more #603pride than Governor Sununu.

“You’re talking to a hometown girl here, so I can’t do anything but support your effort. Full disclosure,” said Regan.

I have my own full disclosure to make, Todd: I’m not sure Amazon is going to pick us.

You are not alone, Rick. This would be something of a miracle. In their wish list, the things they are looking for in a new city, there is nothing that makes New Hampshire seem like a real contender.

Amazon says its would prefer a metropolitan area with more than a million people...you could add the populations of all of New Hampshire’s 13 cities together and not come close to a million. Amazon says it wants to be 45-minutes from an international airport. It wants it employees to have access to mass transit. Certainly not the state’s strong suit.

It’s also looking to hire 50,000 people. Meanwhile, there is a labor shortage already in New Hampshire.

And, perhaps most importantly, it wants incentives, it expects tax breaks.

And that’s not something New Hampshire traditionally does?

Exactly. The state does not have a track record of doling out hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives to lure a company here. And there are economists who criticize those kinds of handouts. In some corners it’s called “corporate welfare.”

But, if you are a city or a state, and there’s 50,000 good paying jobs up for grabs, tax incentives certainly seem like a worthwhile enticement. So, perhaps the state would put forward a deal.

Speaking of enticements, what are other cities doing to get Amazon’s attention?

Tucson mailed Amazon a giant cactus. Birmingham has built giant Amazon boxes in its city.

Mayors are making slick web videos. Meanwhile, a group of residents in New Hampshire have put together a website and petition.

We can expect to see more of this right up until October 19th, when submissions are due. Amazon says it will make its decision sometime next year.