business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Seattle Times reports that “at least 101 cities, states, provinces and counties in the U.S. and Canada have indicated they are interested in the Seattle company’s second headquarters in the week since Amazon announced it was seeking bidders for the megaproject.”

The winner of the sweepstakes will be get some $5 billion in investment and 50,000 employees from Amazon, plus investment and employees from all the ancillary businesses that will line up to provide products and services to the company.

The Times notes that Amazon’s requirements include “proximity to a major airport, a population center of at least a million people, and ample housing and mass transit.” While Boston already has been rumored to be the front-runner (and the city reportedly is hinging its pitch on the site of the soon-to-be-closed Suffolk Downs racetrack), Amazon has said that the competition is wide open and just getting started.

The competitors “range from obvious big-city candidates” like New York, Boston and Chicago, “to a joint effort by smaller towns in North Carolina tobacco and textile country, and a push championed by the University of Maryland in suburban Washington, D.C.”

The deadline for filing formal initial paperwork is October 19.

The Times goes on to say that “Amazon has invited tax breaks and other incentives in its request for proposals, and economic-development experts say some regions are likely to respond with packages valued in the billions.”
KC's View:
I know it is unlikely, but I actually think it would be a great message if Jeff Bezos were to make a public statement that the choice of a location will not depend on tax breaks and incentives, but rather on the degree to which localities invest in public services, especially public education. I’d like it if Bezos would say that he wants to know that the school districts serving the HQ2 location believe that there is nothing more important than having elementary, middle and high schools that put academics first (certainly ahead of putting lights in the high school football field), that emphasize math and science, that are inclusive of minorities of all kinds, that don’t engage in the kinds of stereotypes that slot boys into certain categories and girls into others, that hire and invest in administrators and teachers who understand that it is critical to teach the child, not just the subject and to the test.

Tax breaks and incentives will be important, and at least the initial reports suggest that Amazon is not focused on opening its HQ2 in an area that requires remaking and rehabilitation. But Amazon will do best if it has an educated workforce and consumer base, and I think this would be a terrific place and time to drive this fact home.