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How Amazon Bid Came Together: 'I Know Bezos, I Know How He Thinks' -- Gilbert

January 14, 2018, 10:17 AM Crain's Detroit Business

Dan Gilbert and Jeff Bezos.

Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert called Mayor Mike Duggan shortly after Amazon's request for proposals for a second headquarters became public in news stories around 7:30 a.m. Sept. 7.

"I know Bezos. I know how he thinks," Gilbert told the mayor, according to a detailed, dramatic cover article in Crain's Detroit Business by Chad Livengood and Kirk Pinho. "I think we can win this thing and I think we need to go all in."

From there, Gilbert convened a team to work on the bid.

Based partly on more than 1,800 pages of emails to and from Duggan's chief of staff and six other city officials, obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request, Crain's reports:

Gilbert told Duggan he had already started assembling a team of employees to dissect Amazon's RFP inside an unfinished sales office at Bedrock's swanky Woodward Avenue headquarters, which features its own bar with bourbon and whiskey.

"Look, I already put guys in a room," Gilbert told Duggan.

Forty people were working "full time coordinating every detail of the proposal."

"30 are on Gilbert's team, and the rest are from the city, DEGC or State," he wrote in an Oct. 2 email. And that's not including more than 60 on a bid committee of business, political, philanthropic, education and other leaders.

At Bedrock's office, on the fourth floor of a 137-year-old one-time department store, the nondescript room would quickly be dubbed "the war room." It was lined with six whiteboards that covered up the unpainted walls and surrounded a 14-seat table. Dry-erase markers would in the next several weeks turn the boards into something resembling a piece of abstract art with data and brainstorming.

Duggan told Gilbert: "All right, I want to treat this like I would treat an Olympic bid committee."

"Absolutely," Detroit's most powerful landlord and developer replied.

On its site, Amazon posts:

Amazon HQ2 will be Amazon’s second headquarters in North America. We expect to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs – it will be a full equal to our current campus in Seattle.

In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.

The company plans to disclose a short list of finalists this month.

Read the full account of the drama behind Detroit's bid.

Read more:  Crain's Detroit Business

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