Last year, online retail monolith Amazon shocked cities across North America by announcing a bold proposal: they would build a new corporate headquarters, dubbed “HQ2”, on any city in the US, Canada and Mexico, that fits their list of core requirements and could send them the best possible bid for the project. At stake was a massive $5 billion investment in construction at the chosen location, plus 50,000 new jobs at the complex once it opens. Of over 200 proposals submitted over the continent, 20 were shortlisted this January. But those cities that failed the cut are discovering that Amazon has not discarded them entirely.
CNN has it that certain cities who have submitted proposals to Amazon to have their HQ2, a complement to the company’s original HQ1 in Seattle, are discovering that just because they were not included in the 20-city shortlist does not mean that their efforts to attract the online marketplace platform amounted to a waste of time. One prominent instance is with Birmingham, Alabama. They had little time to wistfully muse on having missed a chance to become home to HQ2, not after Amazon opened a fulfillment center in their city, with 1,500 secure, benefit-laden jobs.
Ford Wiles, who help pitch Birmingham’s HQ2 bid in 2017 with the help of his PR firm Big Communications, notes cities that took the plunge and worked to get Amazon’s attention were subsequently humiliated in public and on social media for taking such a nebulous chance. To those critics, Wiles now replies, “This is a nice proof point that it wasn’t a waste of time.”
Aside from Birmingham, other non-shortlisted cities in the US and Canada that are getting benefits despite losing their bids are Ottawa, the Canadian capital and Spokane in Washington state, both of which will soon be opening their own Amazon fulfillment centers, where ordered products are packed and shipped to their waiting customers in surrounding areas.
Meanwhile, Vancouver will be getting a 3,000-job Amazon office that will focus on developing the company’s machine learning and cloud computing capabilities. Apparently, Amazon was able to find prime locations for these smaller but still vital business offices, thanks to detailed information on labor force and training provided by these cities on their HQ2 proposals.
Among the many steps Birmingham had taken to catch Amazon’s eye for HQ2 last year included the construction of giant Amazon boxes in public spaces, plus dash buttons available for residents that sent pre-generated Twitter posts to Amazon’s page. The retail giant has yet to decide the winning city from the 20 on its shortlist.
Image courtesy of Alabama Department of Commerce