BusinessEconomyHot SheetJohn Hickenlooper

Hickenlooper sounds doubtful about Denver winning Amazon HQ2

Author: Mark Harden - October 25, 2018 - Updated: October 25, 2018

Associates move bins filled products at the loading dock of Amazon’s new fulfillment center in Livonia, Mich. (Todd McInturf/Detroit News via AP)

Amid signs that Inc. is circling other cities in its hunt for a site for its $5 billion second headquarters, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper sounds skeptical that Denver is still being considered.

“I think there’s a possibility we’re not in the running,” Hickenlooper said Wednesday in an interview on the Colorado Public Radio show Colorado Matters.

“I know there were issues around, are we too close to [Amazon’s current headquarters in] Seattle? Wouldn’t they rather have their second big hub on the East Coast?” he added.

Denver was named in January as one of 20 potential locations for “Amazon HQ2,” which the e-commerce giant said would employ up to 50,000 highly paid white-collar workers.

The Wall Street Journal reported last Friday that Amazon had revisited or re-contacted a handful of cities on its list of potential locations for its $5 billion second headquarters. It said Amazon representatives had paid recent visits to New York City, Newark, N.J., and Chicago, “according to people familiar with the matter,” and that the Jeff Bezos-led company had been in contact “with other locations, including Miami and the Washington, D.C.-area.”

But the report did not mention Denver.

“[Amazon has] got a lot of issues that are going to kind of be negotiated and decided in D.C.,” Hickenlooper told CPR. “To me, most people I’ve talked to say either Northern Virginia or Maryland or Washington, D.C., itself are probably the favorites.”

The governor dined with Amazon executives when they toured Denver early this year and officially has supported Denver’s bid for HQ2, but at times he has not sounded like the biggest enthusiast for the gargantuan project.

In January, a few days after Denver made Amazon’s short list of potential HQ2 sites, John Frank of The Denver Post (now with the Colorado Sun) quoted Hickenloooper as telling a City Club of Denver crowd that “there will be a sense of relief if they choose somewhere else, because there are a lot of challenges and lot of hard work we will be avoiding.”

Hickenlooper later seemed to walk that back with Ed Sealover of the Denver Business Journal, who reported that in his interview, “the governor said he did not mean in his speech that he or economic-development leaders would feel relieved if they lost the bidding process on HQ2. Rather, he wants to prepare people that the hard work of getting ready to accommodate the new residents, new commuting vehicles and new students that come with such a major project would begin if the Denver area were chosen for the headquarters.”

In April, a survey from American City Business Journals, the DBJ’s parent, indicated that Denverites have mixed feelings about HQ2.

The poll found that only 35 percent of Denver-area residents “strongly support” winning HQ2. That was lower than any of the 19 other finalist areas surveyed by ACBJ and North Carolina’s Elon University.

Amazon has said it plans to announce its favored location sometime this year.

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.