Whenever a national group refers to the Triangle as “Raleigh-Durham,” it inevitably draws ire from residents of both Durham and Raleigh, who correctly insist the cities are quite different.
But when Seattle-based Amazon revealed its shortlist for the location of its second headquarters, naming only Raleigh to the list, some Durham City Council members worried their city had missed the cut.
Not to worry.
Amazon’s use of “Raleigh,” it turns out, does refer to the entire “Research Triangle Region,” which includes Durham, says Geoff Durham, president and CEO of the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce. The Durham Chamber handles economic development projects for Durham County.
“Multiple Durham sites were submitted for consideration in the regional package but more importantly Durham played an integral part in telling the region’s story of a diverse, collaborative, inclusive and innovative economy with a community that aligns with the corporate culture at Amazon,” Durham wrote in an email to Durham’s city leaders.
“Yet when the news broke there was no mention of Durham or any of the regional team outside of our state capital,” he continued. “If you were like me, you were left with a feeling of reluctant satisfaction.”
Durham said the chamber – along with regional partners such as the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, Research Triangle Foundation and the Raleigh Chamber – immediately sought clarification from Amazon about whether sites in Durham would be considered.
“On Friday evening, Amazon confirmed what we had anticipated and it was in fact the entire region (including Durham) that was selected to advance,” he said. “We will continue to build on our regional media message and sustain our work collaboratively with our Triangle partners into the next phase of this process.”
In its release of the 20 finalists for HQ2, Amazon referred to the finalists as “metropolitan areas,” which left some ambiguity on whether Durham sites were included.
Durham has been part of a separate metropolitan area from Raleigh since 2003, when the U.S. Census Bureau created one metro area centered on Durham-Chapel Hill and another called Raleigh-Cary.
Competition over where Amazon will place its second headquarters is high, as the company said it will spend $5 billion on construction and hire up to 50,000 people at a second headquarters. Economic development groups from across the U.S., and Canada, have been preparing large incentive packages to woo the technology company.
Triangle economic development officials submitted seven sites across the Triangle for Amazon to consider in October. It’s unclear where all the submitted sites are located or what sort of incentive package will be offered.
At the time, Scott Levitan, president and CEO of Research Triangle Foundation, said “a number of sites within the Research Triangle Park ... are included in the proposal.”
Geoff Durham also said around that time that at least one site in Durham located outside of RTP was also included in that bid.
Earlier emails from September – obtained by The News & Observer – between officials at the Durham Chamber and Durham officials suggested three possible locations for Amazon in Durham County.
One of them – the planned Go Triangle transit station site at U.S. 15-501 and I-40 inside the city limits – had to be dropped because it wasn’t big enough to fit 8.1 million square feet.