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Seriously, Detroit? City touts proximity to Carnegie Mellon in Amazon HQ2 pitch

Aaron Aupperlee
| Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, 11:42 a.m.
A store owner in downtown Detroit uses his electronic sign on Friday, July 19, 2013, to show he has faith in the city, despite its bankruptcy filing.
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A store owner in downtown Detroit uses his electronic sign on Friday, July 19, 2013, to show he has faith in the city, despite its bankruptcy filing.

Detroit leaned on Pittsburgh's top universities in its pitch to become home to Amazon's second headquarters.

The city's bid, which was obtained by Crain's Detroit, noted that Carnegie Mellon University and other top schools including Notre Dame and University of Chicago are within a five-hour drive of the Motor City.

"Amazon can tap a rich regional university talent pipeline," an executive summary of the bid stated.

Detroit and its across-the-river, international neighbor, Windsor, Ontario, submitted the bid together.

Crain's Detroit published a story about the city's pitch to Amazon on Wednesday .

Detroit's chances for landing Amazon's second headquarters are often mentioned in the same breath as Pittsburgh's, pitting the two former industrial powerhouses against each other as they try to re-emerge as tech hubs. Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Pennsylvania officials have blocked attempts to obtain details about the city's pitch. The Tribune-Review is appealing a denied open records request for information about the bid under the state's Right to Know Law.

The total value of tax credits and incentives offered by Detroit and Windsor was redacted in the documents obtained by Crain's Detroit. However, Amazon would be eligible to keep all of the state income taxes generated by its employees for 10 years and half of those taxes for another 10 years. The company could operate in Detroit for 30 years without paying real estate and some city taxes under a state program.

Windsor offered Amazon $106 million U.S. dollars and "prime real estate" for the company if it employs 5,000 people and has 500,000 square feet of office space, Crain's reported.

The documents obtained by Crain's Detroit contained a letter from Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans and a prominent Detroit businessman, to Amazon executives. Gilbert led the city's push for the second headquarters.

"If you build it, oh, they will come," Crain's reported Gilbert writing in the letter. "... The road has been paved for Amazon. There is no better place for you to innovate and continue to improve the delivery of your customer experience."

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at, 412-336-8448 or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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