The eCommerce Bachelor: Which City Will Get The Rose?

26. October 2017.








How is the race to be Amazon’s second home city not a reality show? Jeff Bezos missed a major marketing opportunity there (as if Amazon needs it).

In the vein of young romantics crafting elaborate prom-posals for their beaus, 54 North American states, districts and territories are courting the eCommerce giant, and courting it hard. (If Amazon were a teenager, it might say some of the 238 proposed sites are trying too hard.)

In the U.S. only Arkansas, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, Wyoming and the Dakotas did not apply. Proposals were received from cities in Mexico and Canada as well. Amazon will not make its final decision until next year, which gives cities, analysts and the media plenty of time to speculate.

Amazon says HQ2 will be a “full equal” to HQ1 in Seattle. It plans to invest more than $5 billion in the new campus over the next decade and a half and expects to create as many as 50,000 jobs — many of them six-figure positions.

The winner, according to Amazon’s RFP, must be able to attract and retain talent, be business-friendly, offer strong telecommunications connectivity and more.

Of course, strong infrastructure and a robust public transit system will be needed to support all those new workers, so a site that already has those things would be attractive — but some candidates are offering to create them if Amazon gives them the chance, and have likely been waiting for the right excuse to do so for years.

Others are offering standard fare such as tax credits — although even that can’t be viewed as “standard” in this race. New Jersey, for instance, is offering more than the price of Amazon’s investment in tax credits, to the tune of $7 billion, if the company puts HQ2 in Newark.

The submission phase concluded last Thursday, Oct. 19, and the internet is abuzz over some of the unlikelier candidates and outlandish stunts or promises that cities have made in hopes of hosting Amazon’s “HQ2.”

Puerto Rico

The U.S. territory knows it’s the underdog in this race, but the island still rallied to throw its hat into the ring — despite more than three quarters of the territory being without electricity and a quarter without running water in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

The economic development agency’s top official, Manuel Laboy, said Puerto Rico wanted to show it could bounce back from the hurricane. Of course, when it comes to bouncing back, a $5 billion investment and 50,000 new jobs wouldn’t hurt, especially when so many residents have left to seek better living conditions elsewhere, and no one is sure when (or if) they’ll return.

Doña Ana County

As New Mexico’s capital city, Albuquerque naturally put in a bid, but the state’s more southern offering may prove more interesting, as it straddles the U.S.-Mexico border, making this a binational proposal.

HQ2 would be built on 200 acres of one-time copper smelter land less than 10 miles away from the Santa Teresa manufacturing and logistics hub.

Proponents note that, between Doña Ana County itself and the nearby El Paso region and Juarez, the region could more than satisfy the eCommerce giant’s stated requirements. The available land also exceeds what the company said it is looking for. Plus, with so much sunshine, the potential for renewable energy generation (another of Amazon’s requisites) is practically infinite.

Tucson, Arizona

It’s not the idea of putting Amazon’s HQ2 in Tucson that’s strange — it’s the giant cactus that Tucson thought would seal the deal.

The region’s main economic development agency said it wanted to make sure Amazon noticed its proposal — and notice it did. However, Amazon had to politely decline the 21-foot saguaro, tweeting that it could not accept gifts (“even really cool ones”) and had donated the cactus to a desert museum.

No word on how Amazon feels about the city’s actual proposal.

Amazon, Georgia

Technically, this town is not named Amazon … yet.

Stonecrest, Georgia, has promised to rename itself “Amazon, Georgia” if the eCommerce giant elects to put down its second set of roots in their soil. However, with a population of just 53,000, it’s unlikely that Amazon will consider it seriously, no matter how dedicated its citizens may be to the company.

The eCommerce giant said it wants to build in a metro area with more than a million people, and it wants at least some of the workforce to be there waiting for it when it arrives — with attractive enough reasons for outside employees to come there and stay.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Who doesn’t love sandwiches? One sandwich chain in Pittsburgh is hoping Amazon likes them so much that offering them on top of the city’s proposal could tip the scales in its favor. Primanti Bros. is offering free sandwiches for every Amazon employee if Pittsburgh wins the bid.

It almost makes you hope Pittsburgh doesn’t get it. All those sandwiches would cost around $350,000 to make, likely bankrupting the chain — and we’d hate to see a smaller business get ousted by Amazon.

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte has promised to not only create a new holiday for Amazon — it will even commend the holiday’s observance to all citizens. What does that mean? Will people get the day off for “CLTisPrime Day?” Will Amazon Santa deliver Echo Dots to the children’s stockings?

The extent of the proposed holiday observance is unclear at this time. What is clear is that the region has a fast-growing tech sector with 48,000 IT workers, meaning it definitely meets at least one of Amazon’s standards, and an influx of millennials shows that it could be an attractive setting for new employees as well.

Birmingham, Alabama

The city set up giant replicas of Amazon’s Dash Buttons all over town — and yes, they really worked. When people pressed them, they delivered one of 600 pre-generated tweets to Amazon, with messages like, “Amazon, we got a 100% match on Bumble. Wanna go on a date?”

It remains to be seen whether the attraction is returned, or whether Birmingham is fated to be the John Cusack on Amazon’s lawn. Indeed, if this process has shown us anything, it’s that Jeff Bezos is about to have a number of Cusacks on his lawn, while only one can get the rose.

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