Montgomery County may now have a new unofficial, self-appointed ambassador.
Last week, attorney and Republican candidate for Montgomery County Executive Robin Ficker said he traveled to Seattle to meet with representatives from Amazon.
Montgomery County is on a list of 20 possible jurisdictions, where the online retail giant said it could possibly locate its second headquarters. Officials from Amazon have promised to bring about 50,000 jobs to the jurisdiction that lands its new headquarters.
In response, Ficker has taken it upon himself to go to Seattle, where Amazon is headquartered, to meet with employees from the company. Ficker declined to indicate who he spoke with, only saying he met with about 50 employees from Amazon in both scheduled and unscheduled meetings.
A representative from the company said Amazon was not aware of any meeting with Ficker.
“I want Amazon to know that as Montgomery County Executive, I will protect them from professional regulators, and I’m not going to increase their taxes,” Ficker said.
Ficker did not say how his meetings were arranged other than that some of the people he met with at Amazon were friends of a friend.
Since Amazon first announced it will be taking bids for its new second headquarters, Montgomery has worked to put forth a plan to attract Amazon. While the County has refused to disclose any details of its bid, it has worked with the state government to offer an incentive package worth $8.5 billion – in State subsidies. The County offer, unlike the State offer, is not public.
Ficker said in his meeting with anonymous Amazon employees that he discussed the County’s bid to bring Amazon’s proposed HQ2 here, praising the area’s upsides, such as its highly-educated workforce and access to mass transit.
But Ficker said there is drawback to any Amazon move to the County – the County Council.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who has worked with County Executive Ike Leggett on the bid to bring Amazon to Montgomery County, said he does not think Ficker’s attempt to woo Amazon will have a positive or negative effect on the State and County’s bid to lure Amazon.
“He can obviously go anywhere he wants, but we have been working on the Amazon thing for quite a while, and I’m not sure Robin Ficker’s meeting with them or not is going to have an impact,” Hogan said.
At-large Council member Nancy Floreen, who is running against Ficker as an independent candidate for County Executive, said Ficker’s meetings in Seattle were just a publicity stunt and are not worthy of any news coverage.
“It’s not news; it’s a person who went to Seattle,” Floreen said.
Floreen said the County government has worked hard to craft its proposal to Amazon and it is best being led by Leggett, not Ficker.
Ficker argued that his trip to Seattle was not a publicity stunt, but evidence he is willing to do anything to help lure Amazon to the County.
“I will go outside the box to try to bring Amazon here, to do anything that I possibly can, without having Montgomery County serve as Amazon’s ATM,” Ficker said.