Here’s a crazy idea that in reality isn’t all that crazy.
Lathrop should make a pitch for the second corporate headquarters for Amazon. The firm is looking to pick a site where they can invest $5 billion over the next 15 to 17 years and house up to 50,000 workers with most having pay checks in excess of $100,000.
It would require converting the entire River Islands at Lathrop Business Park into exclusive office use and perhaps adding land east of the railroad tracks for Amazon to grow into in future years.
The River Islands at Lathrop site meets a lot of criteria Amazon has expressed and should want and need to obtain and retain solid employees.
There is an abundance of housing — 11,000 units in all — that is being developed within walking or bicycling distance of what could be Amazon’s second corporate headquarters.
The plan to locate an Altamont Corridor rail station at the business park in River Islands means employees could live as far south as Merced and catch a train to reach the front door of their workplace. It also means a reverse commute could bring employees from east of the Altamont Pass from the tech rich Silicon Valley.
While Amazon notes competing with the Silicon Valley for engineers by locating there is dicey at best due to cutthroat competition to fill positions, River Islands at Lathrop would appeal to those engineers that absolutely love the Bay Area but want to be able to buy a traditional single family home with smaller town living amenities and still be an hour away by car or rail from the Bay Area amenities they love.
River Islands will have $55 million in employment center fees to pay down the cost of building in the business park. Marry that with the ability to get the tax breaks of an enterprise zone — much of the South County already qualifies — plus any tax credits California would be able to toss its way and locating in Lathrop could be competitive financially for Amazon in terms of incentives compared to other cities.
River Islands will have 990 executive custom home lots with unique views overlooking the San Joaquin River.
If you want to attract talent, let them settle in an area that is fun to play. From Lathrop they’re less than an hour to the cosmopolitan city that is San Francisco and the tech culture of the Silicon Valley and San Jose, an hour from the ocean, 90 minutes max from the Sierra, 2 hours from the grandeur of Yosemite, and the Delta is in their own backyard.
For executive travel, Stockton Metro Airport is 20 minutes away with the ability to accommodate private jets as well as cargo and passenger service without the hassle of most airports. Amazon already knows this given their daily flights in and out of Stockton moving cargo for its Prime customers.
At River Islands, Amazon would be adjacent to the planned community’s town center with a public square opening up to the river with plans to surround it with restaurants and other amenities.
Amazon can draw young talent that wants to be part of the Bay Area lifestyle but can’t afford the Bay Area housing prices.
River Islands has established its own electrical service that ultimately will have rates 30 percent lower than PG&E. That’s no small detail when you are paying for an electrical bill to run offices housing 50,000 workers.
A commute free — alright, maybe a 15 minute bike ride or 20-minute paddle boat trip — to work means employees will have more time during the week to be with their families. Less stress means more productivity.
River Island’s positon puts it in the same metroplex orbit of fellow tech titans — Apple, Alphabet, and Facebook — to name a few yet would be situated so Amazon was the king of the hill where it would be located although they would have Tesla as next door neighbors. That would allow it to piggyback on the global hub that is the San Francisco Bay area just like it now does in Seattle.
In short, Amazon would have the opportunity to create a company town of sorts without being on the hook for the nitty gritty details save for building offices and bringing jobs. California for any tax credits and breaks they might offer would be able to spur the development of a real 21st century transit village with a flair that combines suburbia with a quasi-urban.
Amazon can locate virtually anywhere it wants. But it would be hard pressed to find a piece of clay, so to speak, that is not only shovel ready for development, but would allow it to mold a lifestyle in the Amazon mage.
They’d have a development partner that is as farsighted and innovative as they are in Cambay Group. There are services and products that the world has yet to see that could have initial rollouts or test infrastructure within the island that will contain 11,000 homes filled with residents — many hopefully who work for Amazon — that would be the prime target audience of Amazon. It would provide Jeff Bezos with a self-contained test market just outside the front door of an Amazon headquarters.
It would be the closest real world setting to “The Truman Show” to allow a company to provide a showcase for its products to demonstrate in real time to the world how they can make their life better.
If locating Amazon’s second headquarters sounds crazy then it’s as crazy as a fox.