HQ2. I believe that’s what Amazon is calling its proposed new second world headquarters site. The company will remain firmly entrenched in Seattle, Washington, but is looking to build in another location . . . a place where it says it will employ 50,000 people with average salaries of $100,000.
That’s a rather tempting carrot for many cities, to say the least. At last count, some 238 municipalities have raised a hand and want to be included in the sweepstakes. All but seven U.S. states RSVP’d, as well as a Canadian province or two, a couple of Mexican states, and even Puerto Rico. Many of the applicants sent along the usual tax breaks and other economic incentives as part of their proposals. Some got a bit more creative than others.
It was reported that Calgary put up billboards offering to fight a bear in order to get the headquarters built there. Tucson sent a 21-foot-tall saguaro cactus to Seattle on a flatbed truck. (Yes, it was real. No, I have no idea why.) A suburban Atlanta municipality carved out a few hundred acres and offered to create an “Amazon, GA” city. (One state that declined to participate in the festivities is Arkansas, home to archrival Walmart. It seems a group of businesses there is well aware of who butters its bread and very nicely told Amazon it just didn’t want the traffic hassles the company would bring along with it.)
The city of Atlanta is one of the contenders bidding to be belle of the ball. Denizens of the Capital of the South are so used to sitting in traffic, having another 50,000 cars on the road every day isn’t going to raise an eyebrow here.
And speaking of Atlanta, I have to think it and many other locales are probably not making public all the incentives being offered to the online retail giant. These are just guesses, mind you, but I’m thinking some concessions are better left conveyed in private.
Free Varsity. Chili dogs, frosted Oranges, and Onion rings for lunch every day at the Amazon cafeteria. What more incentive does a company need? “What’ll Ya Have, What’ll Ya Have?” could even be loaned to Amazon as a slogan when customers log on its website to order something.
Jeff Bezos as a Hawk. Bezos is the founder and billionaire CEO of Amazon. It’s been reported he could buy every NBA team and still have money left over. But how many teams would let him don a uniform? The Atlanta Hawks are so bad this year, that it wouldn’t surprise me if the city didn’t offer to let Jeff play point guard for the team if he’d bring his company to town. I don’t even know if he can dribble the ball, but I imagine he could miss 3-point basket attempts every bit as well as the team does now.
TSA Thru-way. Hartsfield-Jackson International is a huge incentive just by its presence. Lots of non-stops in and out of Atlanta to pretty much anywhere in the world. But the hassle is parking and security. I’m guessing the airport authority would set aside a few hundred VIP up-close and personal parking spaces for Amazon travelers. And perhaps the Transportation Security Administration could see its way clear to create an “Amazon Only” line. First-class travelers don’t have to wait with the peons. Why not extend that courtesy to Bezo’s boys and girls?
Reality TV show. Enlist Tyler Perry’s studio in creating “Amazon: The Real Story” and make it a true-to-life show about the inner-workings of the place. Maybe make a star out of one of the robots that works in the warehouse and fetches the items ordered. “Amazo the Automaton” might morph into a whole industry. Books, stuffed animals, sheets and pillowcases, pajamas, video games – all kinds of merchandise Amazon could market. Part-time Atlanta residents Elton John and/or local hip-hop artists could create the theme song.
And that’s just the beginning. Atlanta has three-fourths of the contenders beat on climate alone. Sure it gets a little sticky in the summertime. That’s easily remedied: Air-conditioned house, air-conditioned car, air-conditioned office. January’s 55-degree highs can feel a bit brisk, but at least the Chattahoochee never freezes. And snow days are play days. Georgia Tech, UGA, Kennesaw State, Georgia State, Emory, and a host of other institutions of higher learning turn out fresh brainpower every year. Factor in ACC basketball and SEC football and I think we’ve got a winner. Alexa, tell Jeff and company to come on down.
©MMXVII. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer in Atlanta