Big names Tapped to lead Amazon Effort

Penny Pritzer

Penny Pritzer

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner have pulled together a mix of familiar and new faces from Chicago's corporate community to lead the city's effort to land a major Amazon expansion.

Co-chairs of the committee, a group of civic and community leaders that has more than 600 members, are Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airlines; Penny Pritzker, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce who now runs investment firm PSP Capital; Jim Reynolds, CEO of Loop Capital; and Miles White, CEO of Abbott Laboratories and a former chairman of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club. (Check the full list at the end of this story.)

Pritzker, Reynolds and White are longtime civic leaders in Chicago. Munoz is a newcomer who grew up in Los Angeles and came to Chicago from Florida two years ago.

Emanuel and Rauner are honorary co-chairs of the committee; and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is honorary vice-chair.

Pritzker was among a small group that traveled to Seattle last week to see Amazon's campus and learn more about the company. Letters went out from the mayor and governor last week to potential supporters throughout the Chicago area, asking them to join the committee to help land Amazon, which set off a nationwide feeding frenzy Sept. 7 when it said it was looking for a second headquarters that could generate up to 50,000 jobs paying an average of more than $100,000 each over 10 to 15 years.

Today is the deadline for real estate developers to submit to the city possible sites for the Amazon project, which is expected to start with at least 500,000 square feet but could grow to 8 million square feet.

Pritzker and her co-chairs will help lead the corporate charge and rally community support, as well as help orchestrate the city's message, should Chicago become a serious contender for the Amazon project, dubbed HQ2.

If the playbook seems familiar, it's very similar to how Chicago tackled the 2016 Olympic bid a decade ago. The key difference will be speed. The Olympic bid played out over years. The Amazon chase will be done in months.

The e-commerce giant set an Oct. 16-19 deadline for responses to its request for proposals. More than 50 cities have indicated plans to bid on the project. Bidders and observers expect Amazon to move quickly, potentially choosing a list of finalists as early as year-end with a final decision in the first or second quarter of 2018.