With 37 days left to submit its request for proposal in hopes of landing "the deal of the decade" -- Amazon's highly sought after second headquarters known as HQ2 -- Loudoun County on Tuesday approved the creation of an ad hoc committee to help its Department of Economic Development land the deal.
The establishment of the ad hoc committee comes as Loudoun -- and essentially every jurisdiction in the D.C. metro area -- competes for the prized project.
Supervisors said that since the search for Amazon's second headquarters was announced by the company Sept. 7, they had received numerous texts messages and calls from constituents both in support and opposed to the deal.
Buddy Rizer, the director of the county's Department of Economic Development, told supervisors he and his team spent most of the last four days planning and going over scenarios on how they could land the deal.
"We will be very aggressive in going after this," Rizer said. "I truly believe that we're a contender in this."
The county's Economic Development Advisory Commission (EDAC) -- a public-private partnership comprised of quasi-county agencies like Visit Loudoun, the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce and some of the county's largest companies like K2M, FCi Federal and Telos Corporation -- offered to help the county by forming an ad hoc committee to support the effort.
EDAC member Sharon Virts, the founder of FCi Federal and the Sharon D. Virts Foundation, said the ad-hoc committee would help economic development sell the county from a "business leader perspective" and coordinate testimonials from people in the business community.
Virts also said the ad hoc committee would develop education and training partnerships, as well as help the county better understand the process of site selection.
Another function of the ad hoc committee she recommended was "telling our workforce story," an area she said could be illustrated through the Board of Supervisors' upcoming Oct. 16 Housing Summit, an event where the board is expected to discuss the challenges it faces around a lack of housing and housing affordability.
Before pitching the idea of the ad hoc committee, Virts urged supervisors to "fully understand the severity and urgency" around the county's lack of accessible and affordable housing in the county.
"A significant challenge in attracting new businesses to Loudoun is the county's ability to provide a continuum of housing options required to supply the diverse workforce," Virts said, reading from an excerpt of a statement EDAC plans to present at the upcoming summit. "Further, lack of accessible and affordable housing is adversely impacting many of our existing businesses and may affect our ability to retain these businesses if left unaddressed."
Virts said her statement followed conversations with a number of Loudoun business leaders across all industries -- from data centers to tech, retail and hospitality.
But some suggested the county not mention the suggested elephant in the room in its Amazon HQ2 application.
"The affect Amazon has in downtown Seattle is extraordinary. They consume about 40 percent of the office space in the downtown," Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) said. " " The average salary they're talking about is over $100,000 " I wouldn't focus on workforce housing. We don't want to give them the impression that we have issues here with housing."
Buona suggested the county instead focus on "everything we bring to the table based on the criteria in the RFP."
Upon announcing its search, Amazon said it was looking for a location within a 30-mile proximity to a city center, with direct access to highways and public transportation options, including bus routes, Metrorail and train, and within 45 minutes of an international airport.
In its RFP, the company asked applicants to provide information on its community's "daily living, recreational opportunities, diversity of housing options, availability of housing near potential sites for HQ2, and pricing."
The company also said it was looking all over North America and that it would invest more than $5 billion in construction and bring with it as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.
In the lead-up to the Housing Summit, supervisors have continuously stressed the need for the county to provide more affordable and workforce housing options as the county experiences high growth.
Earlier this year, an independent report found that by 2040 the county would have an 18,000-housing gap at a time when people from across the income spectrum are expected to migrate to Loudoun, a county that will likely be home to 7 percent of the region's jobs.
But in the same breath, a recent county-sponsored survey found that a majority of Loudoun residents were frustrated with Loudoun's pace of growth and development.
Amazon's headquarters in Seattle brought with it a $38 billion boost to the city's economy from 2010 to 2016, in addition to 33 buildings, more than 40,000 employees and 8.1 million square feet of office space.
Earlier this summer, Amazon chose Fairfax County for it Amazon Web Services' new East Coast corporate campus.
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