You’re 10 Years Too Late To Get Amazon. Maybe 30.

RJ Morris Business Development, Current Affairs, RJ Morris 2 Comments

Here was the press release intro:

Amazon today announced plans to open Amazon HQ2, a second company headquarters in North America. Amazon expects to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.

Then mayors and governors lost their ever loving minds.  $5B and 50k tech jobs. Sign me up. Let me tell you how awesome our town is.

But it doesn’t really work like that. All of those towns scrambling to come up with tax incentives? It’s all show. They’re 10 years too late.  At least. The talent and culture play that’s required to get Amazon involves a community making commitments a decade ago.

Fred Wilson, famous venture capitalist who also writes at avc.com, put together a Top 10 list for why NYC is his choice. “Hold up, RJ, of course NYC is in the running—they’re huge.” Sure, the Big Apple is big, but those folks are also smart.

Here’s Wilson’s list in italics, with my commentary afterwards.

  1. NYC is headquarters to many global companies. It has the transportation systems, building stock, and talent base that companies need and desire for their headquarters. Size play. Expected.
  2. It has 8.5m people, enough to satisfy Amazon’s insatiable appetite for talent. Size, but also a nod towards the talent differentiation.
  3. It is home to the entrepreneurs, creators, innovators, and big ideas that Amazon is looking to surround itself with. Culture matters.
  4. It is home to the second largest tech sector in the US. Culture and size.
  5. NYC is committed to teaching computer science to all of the 1.1m students in its school system by 2025 and is already 1/3 of the way there. Educated local talent is a huge difference-maker, but also culture—we get tech.
  6. NYC/NYS has embarked on massive infrastructure investment to upgrade its transportation hubs like LGA and Penn Station. Capacity and structure.
  7. There are something like fifteen direct flights from NYC to Seattle every weekday. Ease of use.
  8. NYC has the largest Amazon customer base of any city in the US (I am guessing on this one. But it has to be true). Size.
  9. NYC will welcome Amazon with open arms unlike some of the other cities that Amazon is considering. Culture play and a shot at competitor cities who complain about big companies coming into their towns.
  10. NYC has the most diverse workforce in the US. Diversity play.

Other than the size and scale items, all of the other items on here started years or decades ago. Look, everyone wants to be the next Austin, but they charted their course in 1983. If you’re serious about making your community a huge tech haven, you need to combine size with strategy, culture and education / infrastructure investment. Now. So you can win 30 years from now.  30 years?  Man, I never said it was going to be easy.

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