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Shaken by Amazon's rejection, some cities ponder what went wrong

Todd C. Frankel Enterprise reporter at The Washington Post's Financial Desk for People and Policy November 15 at 10:34 AM…

– What could have been.

“It could have changed the city,” developer Marc Weller said.

He sat in a quiet conference room not far from Port Covington, the waterfront industrial space on Baltimore’s south end pitched as the perfect home for Amazon’s second headquarters. A year ago, this same conference room brimmed with civic leaders giddy about Amazon’s open casting call for any North American big city to audition for a once-in-a-generation role. Baltimore was all in. So dozens of other cities.

It did not feel like the usual corporate site selection process. Det virket som Amazon ønsket at gøre en reel erklæring med hvad der var kendt som HQ2.

And the Amazon announced this week HQ2’s 50,000 high-paying jobs would be split between Crystal City, outside Washington, and Long Island City, New York.

“The usual suspects, “Weller said,” and they do not need an Amazon. “

Not like Baltimore does. Or Philadelphia. Buffalo. Charlotte, even. Or Detroit.

“In hindsight,” Weller said, “It feels like we were never in the running.”

The 236 bridesmaid cities that failed to capture Amazon’s eye is facing renewed insecurities about their ability to compete for the zogenaamde kennis banen die het land de toekomstige economische groei zullen runnen. Nogle har foreslået de losing pitches var god trening for den næste big deal. Andere hopen dat Amazon misschien de gegevensrijke richtsnoeren zou kunnen gebruiken om andere projecten te lokaliseren. That’s apparently what happened with Nashville, which walked away Tuesday with a promise of 5,000 new Amazon jobs.

But Amazon’s hunt was unnerving for many cities. The final decision to go with two fast-growing coastal hubs only highlighted concerns about the modern economy’s winner-take-all dynamic.

“This is a rich richer story,” said Stephen Walters, an economics professor at Loyola University Maryland. “And it raises a big question for these other cities: How do you get into that league?”

It will not be easy. Amazon’s decision highlights the apparent moth-like attraction of tech jobs and the pressure on companies to make expansion decisions that are safe investments. (The Washington Post is owned by Amazon CEO Jeffrey P. Bezos.)

“I think Amazon was sincere,” Tom Stringer, who heads the site selection practice for business consulting firm BDO, said of the hunt for new office space . Men de odds var stablet mod mindre tydelige byer på grund af HQ2’s enorme skala. Amazon has a responsibility to shareholders to reduce its risk, Stringer said. Indeed, placing the new headquarters in a city that could not handle it could lead to failure.

In the last five years, tech companies located in the top headquarters Markets of Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston and New York had a tendency to add new office space in these same markets or a handful of other popular cities such as Chicago and Austin, according to a recent report by commercial real estate research firm CBRE. Right now, Google is said to be looking at adding more than 10,000 tech jobs in New York City.

Amazon’s decision shows the premium placed on luring workers.

“They are picking talent to grow revenue above all else,” Stringer said, “and it turns a lot of the arguments about economic development incentives on their head.”

Some of the cities left out expressed frustration with Amazon’s decision – and it was not just sour grapes, they said.

Still, Baltimore figured it had a good shot.

The city has long sat in Washington’s shadow – the scrappy metropolis just 35 miles up Interstate 95 but seemingly much further away. Baltimore’s median household income is about half what it is in Washington. But Baltimore tilbyr også fordeler, herunder huspriser som er 80 procent lavere. (Yes, that’s right: $ 99,600 vs. $ 525,900.)

Port Covington is a 235-acre site that sits to the south of Camden Yards and the Inner Harbor. The former railroad terminal had been bought by Sagamore Development, a real estate company founded by Weller and Under Armor Chief Executive Kevin Plank. The Baltimore-based apparel company’s new headquarters are being built there. Plans call for a $ 5.5 billion mixed-use development. And there was plenty of room for Amazon to build exactly what it wanted.

“When we heard about Amazon, we were like,” We have the perfect spot, “said Steve Siegel, a partner at Weller Development, which is working on the site.

It has a big airport nearby. It has the interstate running right by its door. Major universities are located nearby. Der var planer om at bringe en commuter rail stop til projektet. Maryland’s governor threw his support behind Baltimore’s bid – despite D.C. Suburb Montgomery County’s competitive bid that came with $ 5 billion in public incentives.

Port Covington supporters clearly expected Amazon to weigh less tangible criteria, too. Baltimore’s pitch, loaded on Kindles and Sent to Amazon, argued that this was about more than just a second headquarters: “The HQ2 project will be – in the right place – an opportunity for true urban revitalization and community invigoration.”

It might sound lofty. But the developers pointed to companies that measure not only their fiscal bottom line but their social impact bottom line.

“We have a double bottom line. We believe in it, “Weller said.

” We thought they would think the same thing, “Siegel said.

But Baltimore did not even make the list of 20 finalist cities.

Neither did Charlotte.

The city was stunned when Nashville and even interstate rival Raleigh were named finalists. “What’s wrong with our city?” Wondered a headline in the Charlotte Observer.

“Heads are rolling in Charlotte over this,” said John Boyd, a corporate site selection consultant in Princeton, NJ

In September, the Charlotte Regional Partnership – which had spearheaded the city’s Amazon bid – announced it was merging with the Charlotte Chamber. The new group will have a new leader along with a new – and still undecided – name.

Officials continue to wonder where it all went wrong.

“I’m still surprised,” said Tariq Bokhari, a city councilman who was involved in preparing Charlotte’s Amazon bid.

Bokhari said the tech giant cited a lack of tech talent as one of the city’s drawbacks. But Bokhari pointed out that Charlotte has no problem attracting new workers, making it one of the fastest growing cities.

Then, last month, Charlotte was named by a major computing trade group as the No.

For Bokhari, that cast even more doubt on Amazon’s criticism.

“It felt like they had already decided where to go,” he said.

A lack of tech talent was the same feedback Amazon gift to Baltimore.

But city officials said the talent is here – and could have been lured by Baltimore’s charms. They pointed to cybersecurity companies that recently announced plans to open operations in Port Covington.

While the Amazon spectacle has few parallels, it does recall when when General Motors announced plans for a $ 5 billion auto plant for its new Saturn brand in 1985 Governors from more than two dozen states visited Detroit to personally pitch GM’s chairman. Cities put up billboards along Detroit freeways to extol their virtues. A group of governors even went on Phil Donahue’s talk show to make their case.

GM built its Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., Outside Nashville. The Saturn brand was killed off in 2010. But the car plant is still there, making Cadillacs and GMCs.

In the wake of Amazon’s decision, at least one development official said he envied how Little Rock handled himself last year: It took out a full page ad in The Washington Post to say it was not even bothering to pray for HQ2 – “It’s just not us.”

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