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Where Amazon Should Go

September 8, 2017
In The News

Where would be the patriotic place for Amazon to put its enormous new office complex?

The company announced yesterday that it was looking beyond Seattle to build a second headquarters. Ultimately, HQ2, as Amazon calls the project, will house up to 50,000 workers and stretch over more office space than the Pentagon. Amazon welcomed proposals from cities and said it wanted a metro area with at least 1 million people that employees would find appealing.

As I read about the project, I realized that I already had a rooting interest. I hope Amazon has enough sense of corporate citizenship — and patriotism — to choose a place that helps the country.

The United States is terribly polarized between its biggest cities and everywhere else. Large metropolitan areas on the coasts, like Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, New York and Washington, are thriving economically. The rest of the country isn’t doing nearly so well. This gap aggravates all kinds of problems, including inequality and political polarization.

It’d be a shame if Amazon, which will be showering jobs on a region, further exacerbated the gap with its choice. So I’m rooting against anything in the Northeast or on the West Coast, as well as against Chicago. Denver and Minneapolis are also doing quite nicely, so I’ll add them to the same list.

That still leaves a lot of good options. Atlanta, Raleigh, Nashville, Richmond, Kansas City and Jacksonville are all among the 20 major metropolitan areas with the highest share of four-year college graduates. A company like Amazon needs a lot of educated workers.

Detroit, surprisingly, ranks 21st in college share. Charlotte is 22nd. Dallas and Houston rank lower, but are big enough to have the work force Amazon needs.

Obviously, Jeff Bezos needs to make a decision that is good for Amazon. Yet there is a business case for him to get away from the coasts. Amazon has grand ambitions — to dominate retail in this country.

Its Seattle presence means that its corporate culture already has a deep connection to one part of our polarized country. The company, like the country, could benefit from diversification.

Elsewhere: The most depressing part of Amazon’s announcement was its request to be wooed with tax breaks. “Tech companies, flush w cash, must not demand local tax breaks up front. They shld partner w communities on jobs,” tweeted Ro Khanna, a member of Congress from California.