Dan Gilbert wants Amazon in Detroit. The real estate mogul confirmed to TechCrunch that he has formed internal and external teams to fully explore the possibility of Amazon locating its second HQ in Detroit. Amazon would join General Motors, Quicken Loans, Ally Financial, Comerica and others in having a headquarters in the city's bustling downtown region.
Amazon announced today that it is opening a search for a city in North America to make its second headquarters, envisioned as a “full equal” to the company’s existing home in Seattle, where it employs over 40,000 people in 8.1 million square feet of office space. Gilbert said he believes Detroit will make an extremely strong pitch to be that city.
Detroit does have a lot going for it. The city is experiencing a renaissance of sorts and several developers are rapidly transforming the area; Gilbert is one of them. Another, Illitch Holdings, has been making significant investments in the downtown region — including just this week opening a new stadium for the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons.
The startup scene in Detroit is exploding. Detroit has 50 percent more venture-backed startups than it did three years ago. This comes from a study from the Michigan Venture Capital Association (MVCA), which found there are 35 active venture-backed startups in Detroit. Sure, that’s not a huge number compared to other regions, but the growth is notable.
The city also has a fantastic commercial airport, access to several cargo airports and rail lines and is located in close proximity to the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and countless others. Michigan has, after all, been home for a century to some of the largest engineering and sales companies in the nation. Michigan knows how to build and ship products.
But there are negatives, too. There's a dearth of housing in downtown Detroit and many of the neighborhoods have not felt the same explosive transformation as the downtown corridor. Public transportation is lacking, too. The city's second light rail line just opened. It goes just 3.3 miles.
Even if Gilbert is unable to convince Amazon to look at downtown Detroit, the company could find a home in the vast metro Detroit area that has many of the same logistical advantages as being located downtown. Metro Detroit just isn't as cool.