Amazon recently announced that they are opening a second headquarters, and the company invited cities to pitch themselves as a potential location. This contest was wildly popular. Amazon received a whopping 238 proposals from cities in 43 different states for its HQ2. The possibility of bringing in 50,000 high-paying jobs and a boost to the local economy has lured in city governments. Paddy Power, a site that wagers on anything from sports to politics, places Atlanta, Georgia at a 2-to-1 odds to win the site location for Amazon HQ2. Austin is close behind at 3-to-1, Boston at 6-to-1.
However, the cities trying the hardest to attract Amazon are not the ones with the best odds. Tucson, Arizona gifted a 21-foot saguaro cactus to Jeff Bezos, the company’s CEO. Birmingham, Alabama built Amazon boxes the size of trucks and displayed them around town. Stonecrest, Georgia volunteered to de-annex land and rename it Amazon, Georgia. New York City lit up the Empire State Building and other locations in “Amazon Orange.”
Cities are further pitching Amazon on why they’re the ideal site through advertisement videos. However, in many cases, these videos come across less as highlight reels of the cities’ best characteristics and more as canned pleas for attention from the Amazon gods that be. I’d liken it to hopeful male candidates vying for attention on “The Bachelorette.”
Below are four of my favorite videos. These cities are unlikely to win, but don’t tell them that.
Danbury, Connecticut touts its “Danbury Difference” in its attempt to attract Amazon. Danbury’s mayor, a self-proclaimed “proud Amazon customer” talks to Alexa in the Danbury video. Cue John Oliver to expose this overused plea.
Pomona, California begins by proudly showing they are home to both a café and a farm. Also, they are home to a county fair. “Amazon Polyplex.” It has such a nice ring to it.
The Kansas City, Missouri mayor’s office filmed a video of the mayor ordering over 1,000 products on Amazon Prime. At $14.99, the mayor purchased wind chimes and gave them a raving 5-star review.
And then there’s Little Rock, Arkansas. Little Rock very deliberately did not submit a bid for HQ2. Beginning with a “breakup note” in the Washington Post (owned by Bezos), Little Rock kicked off a “Love, Little Rock” campaign. In the associated video, actors in matching “Love, Little Rock” shirts explain why they’re totally done with Amazon. What would it really mean to host HQ2? Little Rock is staying firmly grounded in reality.
Little Rock, in its rebuttal of Amazon’s contest, actually brings up a great point. While the opportunity to add 50,000 jobs to a city is quite alluring, it’s not the whole story. More jobs will likely mean more people, which can lead to higher home prices and other costs of living.
Seattle’s a great example: Amazon first came to the area in 1994. Once one of the most affordable markets on the West Coast, home prices in Seattle have increased 13.5% just in the past year. New York only saw a 3.9% increase during that time. Additionally, traffic in Seattle increased tremendously. You might be able to get your package delivered in 2 days thanks to Amazon, but you won’t get to work for 2 hours, also thanks to Amazon. Is that tradeoff worth it?
As someone from Birmingham, Alabama, I have viewed a lot of local news coverage regarding the city’s campaign to “Bring A to B.” I am less than confident that Jeff Bezos and the Amazon team are even considering the city as a candidate for HQ2. And that’s just fine by me. For those of you who aren’t convinced by Little Rock’s video, consider this scholarly article: “Amazon Should Just Build HQ In My Apartment.”
All debates aside, the competition has given rise to some truly entertaining city-wide campaigns. Are the campaigns impactful or just comical? Probably the latter. In keeping with the Bachelorette analogy, I look forward to seeing which city gets the “Final Rose.” For better or for worse…