Denver Failed To Land Boeing. Now It's Using Lifestyle To Woo Amazon

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Across the country, hundreds of cities are making their pitch to Amazon. City officials have until Thursday to convince Amazon to open their second headquarters in their town. At stake - potentially 50,000 jobs and $5 billion worth of investment. One city that keeps showing up on lists of favorites is Denver. From member station KUNC, Benta Birkeland reports on how the area is pitching itself.

BENTA BIRKELAND, BYLINE: Walking through downtown Denver, it's impossible to avoid construction. The city's booming and new buildings are going up everywhere. Denver's filled with trendy restaurants, bike paths, museums and tourists. On this crisp, autumn day, there's a bright blue sky overhead and snow-capped mountain peaks in the distance. Millennials, like 25-year-old old Abigail Scott, are flocking here for good jobs and to live close to the outdoors.

ABIGAIL SCOTT: The sunshine is one of my favorite parts. The fact that the snow melts in, like, 5 hours is also another great part. I like that the mountains are visible almost all of the time from the city, gives you a little reminder of what you get to go to.

BIRKELAND: The lifestyle here is the central part of the city's pitch to Amazon. J.J. Ament is with the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation.

J J AMENT: Few places in the United States and the world combine our great business climate with our great quality of life.

BIRKELAND: For Denver, there's some history here. Sixteen years ago, another Seattle company, Boeing, chose Chicago over Denver for its new headquarters. Many cities are offering Amazon larger tax breaks and more cash up front than Denver's willing to put on the table. But the state's governor, Democrat John Hickenlooper, says the region has bigger selling points.

JOHN HICKENLOOPER: The young people that might be in some other city and looking for where to, you know, not just get a job, but to build a family, build a life, that they're going to be more attracted to Colorado.

BIRKELAND: But there is a lot of competition from cities, like Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Raleigh. Rich Fitzgerald is the Allegheny County executive. Lately, he's been putting up to 60 hours a week on Pittsburgh's bid.

RICH FITZGERALD: Companies have kind of discovered Pittsburgh's a great place to do business, and that's why Google is here and Intel is here and the Uber driverless car is here. And in fact, not only are young people staying, but there's more young people coming to Pittsburgh.

BIRKELAND: He says Pittsburgh has another leg up. The colors of the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins are black and gold, just like Amazon's logo. But sports teams aside, this is an economic decision for Amazon. It says it needs a skilled workforce, major universities, an international airport and mass transit - all ingredients that Denver has. In fact, a New York Times analysis said the city was the best fit for Amazon. But some Coloradans are wary about the idea of even more growth.

ANDREA SHINN: There's not really an infrastructure to support 50,000 more jobs.

BIRKELAND: Twenty-eight-year-old Andrea Shinn is a chef. She grew up in the Denver region. She's worried about traffic getting worse and housing prices rising higher than they already are.

SHINN: And it seems like more people are coming every day, which is wonderful for the economy, I suppose. But I think we've been a little sideswiped, and people are coming a little faster than we can anticipate.

BIRKELAND: But Shinn says she understands how the climate and lifestyle draw people to Colorado. She hopes if Amazon does choose Denver, the city won't lose what makes it special to her. For NPR News, I'm Benta Birkeland in Denver.





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