More than 200 cities or regions didn't make Amazon’s shortlist of 20 finalists in the running for its second headquarters. Reactions from those losing bidders vary from the self-critical to promotional, with a little ranting on the side.
Amazon’s shortlist of 20 finalists in the running for its second headquarters left more than 200 cities or regions as losers.
Boosters who had been touting their hometown quality of life, universities and workforce, have since been reckoning with coming up short in the giant retailer’s civic beauty pageant. Reactions varied from the self-critical to promotional.
Houston officials saw a “wake-up call.” The city, the largest in the U.S. not making the cut, lags peers in transit infrastructure and has struggled to build high-tech companies to supplement its energy economy.
“When you don’t make a top 20 list of an innovative company like Amazon,” Houston economic developer Bob Harvey said, “you know you have work to do.”
Baltimore — with finalists on all sides, in Philadelphia, Maryland’s Montgomery County, and the District of Columbia — fretted about its crime rate. Mayor Catherine Pugh said the city would continue to bid for similar projects, including, perhaps, Apple’s planned new campus. “Every time an opportunity presents itself, Baltimore will be in the mix,” she said.
Undeterred, Birmingham, Alabama, and its internet-savvy marketing team suggested Amazon give them a call when the company is ready for a third headquarters.
And in Detroit, Dan Gilbert got to typing. The billionaire city booster and Quicken Loans founder penned a five-page open letter addressing the perception that the city lost out because it lacked the base of talented engineers and mass transit that Amazon was seeking.
Gilbert stood up for Detroit, pointing out that Seattle and even Silicon Valley don’t have enough homegrown talent to staff a technology giant without legions of workers moving from elsewhere.
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He also created something of a new metric to measure a “local” workforce, noting the 52 million people within a five-hour drive of Detroit. (Seattle, he said, has just 12 million people within the same radius.)
Gilbert went on to suggest that it wasn’t how Detroit fared on the metrics that left it on the outside looking in, but the city’s “radioactive” reputation following the struggles of the hometown auto industry and a civic bankruptcy.
“Let this mark the beginning of a new era of how Detroit does business,” he said.
It’s not the first time Gilbert has resorted to an open letter after losing a high-profile contest.
Gilbert, who is the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, posted a note on his team’s website shortly after LeBron James, Northeast Ohio hero and perhaps the best basketball player alive, announced in 2010 that he would leave the team to play in Miami.
The letter admitted bitter disappointment, and came out swinging with promises for better days ahead. In a screaming, all-caps sentence, he guaranteed the Cavs would win a championship before “the self-titled former ‘King’ wins one.”
That one proved wrong — James and the Miami Heat would win two championships in three years. Though if Gilbert’s history repeats, Detroit boosters stung by the HQ2 loss could take heart at the long-term outlook. James would ultimately return to Gilbert’s Cavaliers and win a championship.
The mortgage magnate’s open letter is no longer on the team’s website.