Why Amazon Should Pick Milwaukee
Its second headquarters would have 50,000 jobs. Milwaukee would be an ideal location.
Earlier today Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos announced that the company was looking to build a second North American headquarters on par with its headquarters in Seattle where the housing and talent markets are saturated. The new headquarters may provide up to 50,000 corporate office jobs. With a distribution center 30 minutes to the south in Kenosha, why not build in Milwaukee?
The Case for Milwaukee
It has been a topic of political discourse that Wisconsin graduates tend to leave the state. Amazon could provide incentive to keep more students here. Milwaukee has the two large universities of Marquette and UW-Milwaukee, the latter which Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella earned his Master’s Degree.
Furthermore, Milwaukee is a short drive east of UW-Madison, which is particularly strong in producing information technology graduates. Epic Systems is not the only company ideally situated to make use of Madison’s graduates: Google, Microsoft, and HP have satellite offices there. There is also the potential to recruit graduates from Chicagoland’s universities as it’s a relatively short drive away.
Speaking of Chicago, having Amazon’s corporate headquarters in Milwaukee would have the advantage of proximity to O’Hare in addition to Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport. However, Milwaukee has the added advantage of having a lower cost of living and lower taxes.
In addition to proximity to Chicago, Milwaukee is traditionally dense and urban and has most of the amenities one would expect from a large city. Examples include our professional baseball and basketball teams, Summerfest and multiple other concert and performing venues, the Milwaukee County Zoo, and the museums. Lest we not forget that Milwaukee is also situated with an extensive park system and beautiful views of Lake Michigan.
In fact, the land southwest of Clybourn Street and Lincoln Memorial Drive, made available from the Lakefront Gateway Project, may be the perfect spot to build a towering headquarters with beautiful views of both the lake and the rest of the city. The new tower would complement the newly completed Northwestern Mutual building as well as The Couture and US Bank towers.
On Clybourn the headquarters would have easy access to the interstate and mass transit and a short drive to the airport. Elsewise, there is a large parcel of vacant land south of Michigan Street between 7th and 8th Streets as well as a sizable parcel in the Historic Third Ward owned by the Italian Community Center which is presently used for commuter and festival parking.
While Northwestern Mutual employed approximately 5,900 people on both its Milwaukee and Franklin campuses its new tower has more than a million square feet of office space. Comparatively, according to Forbes, Amazon’s Seattle headquarters employs 40,000 and has over 8 million square feet of office space across the city. Judging by news reports, the new headquarters would employ the same or greater. Amazon could have a new headquarters and fill much vacant office space in the city.
Milwaukee has numerous advantages which could make it a candidate for Amazon’s headquarters. Were Amazon to come to Milwaukee, it would help diversify the city and metropolitan area’s economy to complement strengths in manufacturing and finance, help retain Wisconsin graduates, and lead to significant investment in the downtown, the area housing stock, and Mitchell International airport. Of course, there would also be increased demand for service and other jobs to support Amazon’s new employees.
If city and state officials can devise a reasonable offer for Amazon’s second headquarters, Milwaukee has little to lose and potentially much to gain.
Ken Smith is a Milwaukee native and graduate student at UW-Madison. He studies in the LaFollette School of Public Affairs and Department of Planning and Landscape Architecture.