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Published on Friday, September 15, 2017

GTA municipalities team up for Amazon

Toronto Mayor Tory calls plan a 'blockbuster bid'

GTA municipalities team up for Amazon
Seattle-based Amazon announced its search for a home for “Amazon HQ2” on Sept. 7
(STUART ISETT / THE NEW YORK TIMES)
By VJOSA ISAI, Toronto Star Staff Reporter

In its strategy of presenting a united front to beat out fierce competition for Amazon’s second North American headquarters, Toronto is partnering with three other municipalities and two mayors to put forward a single, regional bid.

Three mayors — Toronto’s John Tory, Mississauga’s Bonnie Crombie and Brampton’s Linda Jeffrey — and chairpersons of the Durham, Halton and York regions have joined forces in the bid.

The municipalities are part of Toronto Global, a new agency working to bolster efforts to attract foreign direct investment to the region.

Amazon is the agency’s first major project, and one that Mayor Tory believes is unparalleled in Canada when considering its possibility to generate tens of thousands of jobs, billions of dollars in investment and potentially massive spinoffs.

Seattle-based Amazon announced its search for a home for “Amazon HQ2” on Sept. 7. The tech giant is poised to invest “more than $5 billion (U.S.) in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.”

“It’s going to be a blockbuster bid because it’s going to have the region bidding, hopefully with some people who aren’t technically part of Toronto Global joining us,” Tory said in an interview.

Though Global Toronto was conceived to include the immediate GTA area at the time of its launch in February 2017, Tory said he hopes to partner with cities like Waterloo and Hamilton in this bid and for future projects.

Tory said the timing of this agency was perfect for the Amazon bid, but creating a regional partnership to entice foreign investors is something he has been working on for years.

“It wasn’t just about creating an organization,” Tory said. “It was about actually deciding that when we went forward to attract foreign direct investment, which this is, that we would do it as a region because we were stronger together.”

Tory referenced a Cities of Opportunity report by Price Waterhouse Cooper that showed the success of similar organizations in London, Chicago and Montreal.

“We are stronger when accentuating the business benefits of the entire region,” said Mark Cohon, chair of the Toronto Global board of directors, in a statement to the Star.

Diverse site selection, cultural diversity and quality of life across the region are factors that can leverage these opportunities, he said.

Toronto isn’t the only Canadian city vying to house Amazon online retail giant’s second home. Vancouver also signalled plans to bid, as well as other North American states and cities like Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago and Detroit.

Abdullah Snobar, executive director of Ryerson University’s DMZ business incubator, believes having Amazon headquartered in the city would bring international exposure to Toronto’s tech community, but could absorb start-up talent.

“It’s going to be a lot of work . . . to ensure that by bringing on a corporation, it does not mean that we lose the potential of building out an innovation nation of talented entrepreneurs and startups,” he said.

The organization has until Oct. 19 to submit its bid in the “Olympics of foreign direct investment,” as Tory calls it, with eyes on the gold.

“We’re going to try to win,” he said.

With files from David Rider
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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