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Amazon HQ2: What about New York?

Oct 25, 2017 Tim Cook, JD Tags: , ,
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The bids are in! After all the fanfare, 238 proposals from 43 states have been submitted in pursuit of Amazon’s second North American headquarters, a.k.a. HQ2. The arrival of the submission deadline has given way to a spontaneous combustion of armchair site selection forecasters, all predicting with great authority which cities are the likely frontrunners and which have no chance. Having perused a rash of these so-called experts and consolidated their various “short lists” into a single tally, the number of so-called frontrunners is at 20+ and counting.

Hearing the Amazon pundits make pronouncements about an uncertain outcome with such certainty takes me back to when the New England Patriots were headed into the 2004-05 AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton Manning was coming off back-to-back Hall of Fame performances, racking up huge points in both games. Even though New England finished the regular season 14-2 and had home field advantage, the experts were predicting a Colts win. I remember one reporter asking New England’s head coach Bill Belichick how his team could possibly compete with Peyton Manning. Belichick deadpanned that his humble squad, a team sporting a 14-2 record and home field advantage, would just have to go out there and give it their best shot. The Patriots ended up beating the Colts handily.

That Belichick quote reminds me that as the various “it” cities continue to be spun on a 24/7 continuous loop, one city is consistently if not conspicuously being left off: New York. Of course, New York City is too big to be totally forgotten, but its inclusion on some lists seems almost perfunctory. Yet, if we’re to believe Amazon’s wish list – a diverse and voluminous workforce, an international airport with multiple flights schedules to required destinations, a high quality of life, and a world-class population of the smartest minds and best universities in the world – doesn’t New York check every one of those boxes in a 99th–percentile-on-a-standardized-achievement-test sort of way?

New York has its drawbacks, to be sure. The tax and business climate will be expensive – a potential deal-killer. And, if incentives are a driving factor in Amazon’s decision, maybe New York’s check won’t have enough zeroes at the end of it. But when a city so qualified in every key area isn’t getting mentioned as often as the other “favorites,” it seems the Big Apple should be standing a little bit bigger than it is right now.

Notwithstanding, with the bids now in and no one outside of Jeff Bezos and his team truly knowing what will drive the decision, there is no lack of speculation amongst the chattering class of economic development mind readers. To wit, here’s a sampling of cities receiving regular mentions.

At the end of the day, whether it’s an obvious choice like D.C., Atlanta, or Boston, a further-in-the-pack selection like Rochester, Minneapolis, San Jose, or that scrappy upstart – with 8.5 million people – called New York City, Amazon secured more bids than just about anyone predicted. More unpredictability is still likely to come before Amazon’s final decision is made.