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Minnesota's preparing its bid for Amazon's HQ -- but you can't know what's in it yet

The headquarters building for Amazon in Seattle, which recently added a trio of geodesic domes, one of which is visible at bottom left, Sept. 7, 2017. The online retail giant said it was searching for a second headquarters in North America in 2017, a huge new development that would cost as much as $5 billion to build and run, and house as many as 50,000 employees. (Stuart Isett/The New York Times)

ST. PAUL—Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton met with state and regional officials Friday to prepare a bid to land Amazon's new headquarters—but an official said the contents of the bid will be kept secret for now.

"As Amazon has requested that all proposals be kept confidential, additional details on Minnesota's proposal would be inappropriate at this time," state economic development Commissioner Shawntera Hardy said in a statement after the meeting with Dayton and Greater MSP CEO Michael Langley.

The retail giant announced on Thursday that it was seeking a spot for a second North American headquarters, in addition to its Seattle base, to potentially house 50,000 employees. Minnesota, like a raft of other localities, quickly said it would bid for the chance.

Such secrecy is not unusual in the early stages of bidding for a project. In 2013, Dayton, a Democrat, flew to California to woo Shutterfly to build a facility in Minnesota. But neither he nor his office would say where he was flying or what company was his target.

"Do you want us to go out there and try to get people more jobs in Minnesota or not?" he asked reporters who questioned him about the secrecy at the time. "If we announced this and (said where we were going) I wonder how many of you would have even thought it was worth a story. It is really disappointing how it has been blown out of context."

If Minnesota goes forward with incentives for Amazon, the details may eventually be public. Major state aid packages would need legislative approval, as would city tax breaks or infrastructure deals.

Dayton, a former economic development commissioner himself, has been willing to offer major state incentives to land new business or expand business in Minnesota in the past. It is not clear exactly what Amazon would demand in exchange for siting its new headquarters but there could be a bidding war.

If Amazon picks Minnesota, the company could quickly become the state's largest employer. According to state records, Minnesota's current largest private employer is Rochester's Mayo Clinic with just over 41,000 employees. The next largest non-governmental employer is Allina Health Systems with about 28,000 employees.

On Friday, after her meeting with Dayton, Hardy did not promote the fiscal incentives Minnesota could offer, she said. Rather she highlighted: "our world-class workforce, an innovative economy and a high quality of life."

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