Orange County's Irvine Co. said Friday that it plans to bid for Amazon.com's second headquarters, which Amazon says will employ up to 50,000 people.
Privately held Irvine Co. said it would work with the city of Irvine, a master-planned community developed by the company, to "submit a responsive and compelling proposal to lure Amazon's second headquarters."
“We are uniquely qualified to meet Amazon’s needs,” Irvine Co. Chairman
Irvine Co.'s plans came a day after Amazon, the giant online retailer based in Seattle, launched a nationwide search for another headquarters that it said would cost $5 billion.
Amazon's announcement immediately set off a race among cities nationwide, including Los Angeles and San Diego, that hope to lure the company and the enormous economic benefits its facility would bring.
“We do meet the requirements” set by Amazon “and I think we meet them quite handily, so we would love the opportunity to compete” for the project, said Irvine Mayor
Irvine Co. oversees the 93,000-acre Irvine Ranch in Orange County that includes the city of Irvine, which has about 266,000 residents along with office space, housing, commercial properties and colleges, led by UC Irvine.
About 57,000 acres of the ranch have been set aside as open space.
Irvine Co. did not specify where an Amazon headquarters might be located, but said the company "would work with the city [of Irvine] to identify the best location that would benefit both the city and Amazon." Irvine Co. executives declined to elaborate.
Irvine Co. said its bid would include collaboration with local government leaders, UC Irvine and business executives, and would be led by Dan Young, a former Irvine Co. executive who's now an outside advisor to Bren.
"Irvine has many strategic advantages that are important to Amazon, and our company has wide recognized experience and expertise creating sophisticated work spaces and campuses for innovative, growing companies," Young said in a statement.
Although Southern California has many of the attributes Amazon is seeking, including massive port operations, some observers said they doubted Amazon would want both of its headquarters on the West Coast.
In its request for a proposal to bidders, Amazon said it would give priority to areas with more than 1 million people that are within 45 minutes of an international airport.
Irvine Co. said it was within 45 minutes of Los Angeles International Airport – although that might be optimistic at times, given Southern California freeway traffic – along with regional airports John Wayne, Long Beach and Ontario.
Amazon also made it clear that it's looking for incentives, such as tax breaks, from the winning city. Irvine Co. did not specify in its announcement what incentives, if any, it was prepared to provide the e-commerce company.
Wagner said the city would be willing to consider offering "reasonable incentives." He declined to be more specific but added that "there has to be a return on investment to our citizens to make that attractive" and incentives would require approval of the Irvine City Council.
Orange County has roughly 3 million people, and the Irvine Ranch – which stretches nine miles along the Pacific coast and 22 miles inland – also includes parts of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Tustin, Orange and Anaheim.
Amazon said it's also looking for an area that has a "highly educated labor pool" and a "strong university system."
"Irvine is safe, clean, beautiful and business friendly" with a "diverse, highly educated, tech savvy population that has grown up with the highest-ranked public schools in the state," Irvine Co. said.
Irvine Co. also said UC Irvine has "substantial engineering and computer-science schools and a history of close collaboration with companies in the surrounding communities."
Lucy Dunn, chief executive of the Orange County Business Council, said Irvine Co. has asked her to help with its proposal. She declined to speculate on specific sites, but said "there is land available."
John Burns, a national real-estate consultant based in Irvine, said Irvine Co. owns land near the Irvine Spectrum that might be able to hold Amazon. There is also is the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, which is being developed into the massive Orange County Great Park and a surrounding mix of residential and commercial uses known as the Great Park Neighborhoods.
That project is being developed by FivePoint Communities, not Irvine Co., which presumably would want to have Amazon occupy land it owns.
FivePoint CEO Emile Haddad said he hasn't talked to Bren about the proposal, but said he was willing to work with Irvine Co. on a package if Amazon decides it wants to be in Orange County.
Haddad noted that FivePoint also has development projects in the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Clarita that could hold Amazon if the company wants to go to those regions.
Irvine has a strong argument to make to Amazon, Dunn said, noting the city's proximity to UC Irvine, transportation and the airports, among other attributes. Amazon already has offices in Irvine for its Alexa voice-activated service, and cloud computing and game operations.
"The baseline infrastructure is already here," she said.
4:10 p.m. This article was updated with comments from Irvine's mayor, a real-estate consultant and FivePoint's chief executive.
2:30 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from an executive with the Orange County Business Council.
1:30 p.m.: This article was updated with details about Irvine Co., its proposal and Amazon's requirements for its second headquarters.