Guess Who’s in Seattle Visiting Amazon?

Every city, county and state trying to lure Amazon’s second headquarters is looking for any possible advantage. Could Montgomery County’s secret weapon be gadfly Robin Ficker?  Ficker, the Republican nominee in the three-way race for county executive, arrived in Seattle late Monday night for what he called “meetings” at the e-commerce giant’s headquarters on Wednesday.  “I’m going around today looking at some things, and tomorrow I’m going to be taking a look at HQ1, because we want to know what we’re going to be doing with HQ2,” he told Maryland Matters. “And what better way to do that than to see HQ1?” Montgomery County was one of more than 230 communities to bid for Amazon’s second national headquarters, and the company announced earlier this year that the county made its Top 20. Robin Ficker, Republican candidate for Montgomery County executive, on Mercer Island, near Seattle, this week. He will visit Amazon headquarters Wednesday. Campaign photo  The firm has promised a final decision later this year, after the November elections. Ficker is a perennial candidate widely viewed as a long shot to become executive, and the idea of him flying across the country on his own dime for a get-acquainted session with Amazon brass will strike many as, well, surprising. Informed of Ficker’s trip, Steven A. Silverman, former director of the Montgomery County Office of Economic Development, paused as if to process the news, before saying, “That is ludicrous on so many levels.” “If he’s able to meet with anybody, sort of as a courtesy, it would be somebody in public affairs or government relations,” Silverman said. “It would not be anybody in the decision-making process.” “Secondly, I’m confident that Amazon is evaluating the political climate in every one of the 20 jurisdictions that they’re looking at, both in terms of local officials and state officials. And it wouldn’t take too much difficulty for Amazon to figure out that Ficker cannot win. Under any circumstances.”  Ficker is running against County Council members Marc B. Elrich (D) and Nancy M. Floreen, a Democrat turned independent.  Amazon’s second headquarters competition is widely regarded as a once-in-a-generation opportunity, because of the huge number of high-paying jobs that will be created in the winning community. Estimates run as high as 50,000 positions, mostly highly-skilled, high-wage tech jobs. Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) have been leading the push to bring the company to Maryland. During this year’s legislative session, Hogan successfully pushed a $5 billion incentive plan through the legislature.  Ficker would not disclose who he will be meeting with, and an email to Amazon’s corporate communications team wasn’t immediately returned. But the candidate expressed confidence that his trip west will be worthwhile. “I’m going to be more knowledgeable about Amazon when I leave here than I was before,” he said.  Silverman said that Ficker might have been better served traveling across the county than going all the way to the Pacific Northwest. Why? Because Holly Sears Sullivan, who is leading Amazon’s search process, is a former Montgomery County economic development official who still calls Montgomery home. [email protected]

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