WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Mayor Neil O’Leary says it would be a game changer. That’s why he’s rolling the dice and making a play at trying to encourage Amazon to make Waterbury the home of its second headquarters.
He’s proposing a site along Freight Street where the old brass factory run by the Anaconda American Brass Company now stands with several shattered and completely broken out and boarded up windows.
But where most people might see blight, Mayor O’Leary sees something different.
“I see hope,” the Mayor said. “I see hope that an old, thriving brass factory can be a new, commercial, retail shovel-ready development space.”
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The Mayor says more than a hundred acres would be available along Freight Street — more than what Amazon has said it needs for its new headquarters. Other selling points for Mayor O’Leary include the area’s proximity to major roadways like Interstate 84 and Route 8 and a rail line, which are all just down the street. He also touts a skilled workforce in the Greater Waterbury area that’s proven itself in the past when Waterbury became the brass capital of the world.
“I’m the ever-optimistic mayor, but what I see is a city that would reflect what Waterbury looked like in the 50s and 60s with the brass factories all being located here and people working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and thriving,” Mayor O’Leary said.
Attracting Amazon would mean an additional 50,000 jobs.
“A game changer,” the Mayor said.
Mayor O’Leary also said another added plus for the city might be the work that’s already being done to improve Freight Street — thanks to a $12 million grant — and make it more enticing to Amazon or other large companies in the future.
“We’ve been putting all brand new utilities in this road,” he said. “We can build absolutely anything to accommodate any facility now on this Freight Street corridor. This is our industrial hub.”
News 8 asked Mayor O’Leary about some of the problems that plague the city — like crime, blight, high taxes — and how those problems might effect his city’s bid.
“Clearly the owner of Amazon has a track record of showing he likes to go into communities that are challenged and make a difference,” the mayor said. “This is a life changer.”
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But, if Amazon moved in, the Mayor says 25 small businesses would have to move out.
“The city of Waterbury, working with the state of Connecticut, would absolutely absorb any relocation discomfort or costs to bring a company like Amazon in,” said Mayor O’Leary.
He also knows Waterbury faces stiff competition from other cities around the world, the country, and Connecticut. Bids have also been submitted by places like Bridgeport–New Haven, Hartford, Stamford, and Danbury.
“We know how competitive this is, but my feeling was you can’t be in the game unless you apply for this.” he said. “We’re working everyday to try to attract any company but Amazon certainly would be quite a shock.”