Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Who DOESN’T want to be home to Amazon’s HQ2?

Some folks can go their whole entire life without getting even one modest proposal, but it looks like Amazon has gotten 238 of them – big kisses on the lips from cities and towns in 43 U.S. states, plus a few Canadian provinces and Mexican states.

It pretty much goes without saying that The Hub of the Universe is one of them. But Boston is not alone among Massachusetts cities and towns wooing Jeff Bezos et al. I heard that 26 of the Commonwealth’s finest locales – including Worcester – have put in bids. That’s more than 10% of the total. Of course, Amazon requested that states/regions pretty much aggregate their valentines, but Massachusetts didn’t want to pick and choose among its splendors. Who’s to say that Leominster and Taunton wouldn’t be swell picks? Leominster is, after all, home to the lawn flamingo. And Taunton? Just because you think dog track doesn’t make it so.

What Amazon is dangling is the promise of $5B in investment and the creation of 50,000 jobs. Good jobs. Techie jobs. Not rollerskating around warehouses and picking stuff off the shelf jobs, which are all being replaced by robots, anyway. Good jobs. Techie jobs.

What Amazon is looking for, of course, is lots of schools churning out grads to make up that techie workforce, and a cool environment that will attract all those techies, and – no surprise here – some mega baksheesh (those oh-so-vaunted “incentives”) to make it worth their while to pick your town.

New Jersey is offering $7B in tax incentives – you read that right – but Amazon is staying mum on the range of goodies that are being dangled in front of them. It must be like Christmas morning up in Seattle, opening up all those 238 packages, tossing the videos aside – they’re all going to look and sound the same; like opening up the nicely wrapped gloves and socks gifts that Grandma puts under the tree: yawn!  – and diving right into the pile of real presents to see what’s inside. That nice Chris Christie’s stuffed $7B in a stocking!  And the town of Stonecrest, Georgia, is promising to make Jeff Bezos their permanent mayor, bless their peapickin’ little hearts.

Of course, it would be a nice nod to Boston to win this. But we already don’t have enough reasonably priced housing to go around. Won’t this just bid up the price of housing? (Wait a second. That might be a good thing. Just making this observation for a friend.) And what about the traffic? Oh, I know, I know, Millennials use motorized skateboards. They don’t even like cars. But, wherever Amazon decides to settle down, there’s going to be traffic jams. The cost of prosperity, I guess, given that, despite all the talk about how important public transpo is and how much those Millennials love motorized skateboards and despise cars, the American love affair with the automobile doesn’t appear to have ended quite yet.

Anyway, even though I’m too lazy to look through the package to see what Boston offered, I would, naturally, be delighted if Boston “won.” But Worcester as the site would be even funner. Except, of course, for the techies who might be scratching their heads if they ended up there. At least people would know how to pronounce the name of The Heart of the Commonwealth. (Seriously, folks, War-sester I get, but how can anyone look at Worcester and come away with War-chester? Let the word go forth: it’s Wuh-stah. And that’s Wuh as in Woof without the f.)

Everybody’s gaming the Amazon decision, of course. The New York Times analyzed the RFP requirements and the respondents and concluded that Denver, Boston, and Washington DC are the top contenders, and that Denver will win out. Moody’s thinks otherwise. They think that the nod will go to Austin.

The Boston Globe assures us that:

Boston is widely considered a strong contender to make at least that first cut. (Source: Boston Globe)

The Globe looked through 16 short lists, including those of Moody’s and NY Times, and came up with their “plausible list of top contenders.”

Others on that list are Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Toronto, and Washington DC. All have their pros and cons. (Sorry, Chicago, beautiful city and all, but you’re a bit saddled by the state of Illinois crazy finances.) I’m guessing the pick will be something East-Coast-y. Amazon has already got Pac-Rim facing covered. Europe ain’t dead yet, so something East Coast makes some sense.

What the hell. I’m a true homer.

Go Boston! Go Worcester!

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