TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Sun Corridor Inc., an economic development group in southern Arizona, loaded a 21-foot saguaro cactus onto a flatbed truck, and plans to deliver it to Jeff Bezos at Amazon in Seattle.
The gesture is meant to entice Amazon to make Tucson the home of its second headquarters.
Amazon announced on Thursday Sept. 7, that it's looking for a second home with plenty of space for growth.
The company said the $5 billion project could hire as many as 50,000 new employees over the next 10 to 15 years, most exceeding $100,000 a year in earnings..
Sun Corridor Inc., the Pima County Board of Supervisors, Rio Nuevo and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild all believe Tucson is the perfect place.
"We wanted to make sure Mr. Bezos and his team notice us and send a message of 'we have room for you to grow here for the long term.' Nothing signifies that better than a saguaro," said Joe Snell, president and CEO of Sun Corridor Inc. "We'll work with Governor (Doug) Ducey and the Arizona Commerce Authority closely to submit a strong case."
The saguaro is not an endangered species, but is one of many plants in Arizona protected by the Native Plant Protection Act. According to the National Park Service, people wishing to remove a saguaro need permission from the landowner where the saguaro is growing and a permit from the Arizona Department of Agriculture.
Arctic Cactus on Prince Road said the cactus came from a landowner who was building a home and had to remove it.
Sun Corridor said it would be replanted at a terrarium in the Seattle area.
In a press conference at the cactus service, Snell said Tucson is being aggressive because it's the right thing to do and will get the attention from, if not Amazon, then others.
"We're aggressive, others are going to see it," he said. "Some of the fallout could be other companies realizing how aggressive we are and we're open for business."
The Tucson area has had a run of good luck in the past two years capped with Caterpillar moving it's surface mining headquarters to Tucson.
The Caterpillar win and the Tesla loss served as a wake up call to the Tucson business community.
Tesla moved its battery and testing operations to Nevada, but Tucson made the short list which has given it confidence to pursue others.
"Without our experience with Tesla and coming so close, we probably wouldn't be here today," said Snell.
So even if Tucson does not win the race for Amazon, the local business community believes it sets it up for the future.
"If nothing else, this is good training for the next time," said John Moffatt, of the Pima County Economic Development Department. "It's a conditioning thing."
Moffatt believes as the county continues to pursue other companies, it will improve its chances.
"The more you put these things together, the better you phrase it, the more you polish your approach, the better," he said.
The eight page Request for Proposal issued by Amazon says it will consider metro areas which exceed a million in population, which Tucson barely does.
And it requires an active airport with many non-stops coast to coast, which Tucson lacks, especially to the East coast.
"That's something we'll have to work directly with airline to figure out how to put that in our proposal," said David Hutchens, Chair of Sun Corridor. "We're going to have to figure that out."