NIAGARA FALLS, ONTARIO -- You can add Southern Ontario to the list of suitors for Amazon's second headquarters.
The Niagara Regional Council passed a resolution this month to explore a bid for the company's $5 billion "HQ2" project, which would bring 50,000 high-paying jobs to one lucky community in North America.
Every major city on the continent, including nearby Toronto, intends to make a bid for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Niagara Region, however, believes it can set itself apart by proposing a bi-national partnership with leaders in Erie and Niagara counties on the American side of the border.
It's a creative idea, intended to pool resources together and incorporate the major metropolitan areas of Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Hamilton, Ont., and St. Catharines, Ont., among others.
Few communities in North America could present a cross-national bid like this one, which would far exceed Amazon's desired population zone of one million people.
"We have universities, colleges, international crossings, all of these things. Knowledge of trade, because we've done it on both sides of the border for years. I think we're well set up for this," regional councilor Selina Volpatti of Niagara Falls, Ont., said in an interview outside City Hall. "We think we do have some advantages that no one else has."
Paul Grenier, who represents the community of Welland on the Niagara Regional Council, said he believes both regions could present a strong, unified bid, if American leaders are interested in the concept. Buffalo's international airport, along with open space in Southern Ontario and the advantage of a Foreign Trade Zone in the Niagara Region, could be appealing to the company.
"With the strength of the workers, the availability of the land, and other advantages, we bring lifestyle and affordability that is really driving Amazon's look outside of Seattle," Grenier said.
It's unclear whether leaders in Western New York plan to incorporate their neighbors in Southern Ontario as a part of the bidding process. Elected officials in Erie and Niagara counties have already been vocal about their own efforts to lure Amazon.
Invest Buffalo Niagara is leading the bidding process for Western New York, but President and CEO Thomas Kucharski said Tuesday he's unable to comment on the bid at this point because he doesn't want to give away any strategies to competitors.
However, Canadian officials have been in discussions with Niagara Falls, N.Y. Mayor Paul Dyster's office. A spokesperson for Dyster's office confirmed those talks have taken place but declined to comment further.
Members of the Regional Council haven't publicly identified any potential sites for the headquarters.
Volpatti said she'd be pleased to see a location on the American side in Western New York, as long as the project included her region of Niagara and drew from the Canadian workforce and universities.
She realizes, of course, that this all may be a bit of a long-shot.
"But even if this doesn't work for Amazon, we will have engaged in this endeavor together, and done networking as we've never done before. Something good will come out of it," Volpatti said. "If it's not Amazon, it will be someone else in the future."
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