Today, Amazon released their short list for Amazon HQ2 locations. There are twenty cities on the list but none from Minnesota.
It was anticipated that GreaterMSP should be a finalist for the HQ2 project for good reason. Many of the communities that are on the list of finalists are similar or even smaller-sized regions than GreaterMSP.
Make no mistake, this is a major blow for us.
There should have been significant levels of positive, free PR and marketing for Minnesota and GreaterMSP had we, the 16th largest US metro, made just this first cut even if we didn’t win in the end.
The entire Amazon HQ2 process was a farce pitting community against community in a terrible race to the bottom for economic development gains. However, there is a lot that can be learned from this obnoxiously-successful public relations stunt.
Our elected officials at the local, county, and state levels hopefully are paying attention. It should be unconscionable to all that GreaterMSP didn’t make the top 20 shortlist for this project.
If you missed the headlines, Amazon put out a public call for RFPs to build a second headquarters. They are currently located in Seattle, Washington. This second HQ would house 50,000 employees and represent billions in local investment. Amazon released a map (above) on their website today with a statement stating:
Amazon HQ2 will be Amazon’s second headquarters in North America. We expect to invest over $5 billion in construction and grow this second headquarters to include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs – it will be a full equal to our current campus in Seattle. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.
We don’t know what was included in each community’s proposal for HQ2. However, my assumption is that Minnesota was never a competitor for multiple reasons.
Our labor pool is not deep enough to provide 50,000 workers for Amazon. The metro’s unemployment rate was the lowest in the nation in November of 2017 and there is a major demand for workers statewide. We have an extraordinarily highly-skilled and highly trained workforce, but it is not growing fast enough to meet the current needs of our employers.
Want more? Check out our interview series for elected officials: Community, Jobs, and Progress.
We are building housing, but not fast enough and not at dense enough rates to meet today’s workforce demands. In order to grow our workforce, housing must be more readily available throughout the metro. We don’t need housing for 50,000 new employees, but it is imperative that we build housing – both market rate and affordable – to keep up with today’s economic factors or we will suffer greatly.
All levels of government must seriously evaluate the regulations forced on housing today that puts so much of it out of reach to our citizens. The State must look at the necessity of their requirements adding thousands to every unit built. Local leaders must decide if their fees and permits are in line with what it takes to build housing. The question whether or not another community will take care of our housing problem is concretely solved…and I can name twenty that are stepping up.
Our transportation system is fundamentally broken. We can’t build all of the new housing simply in the Minneapolis/St Paul core. Land is every community’s number one commodity. We must use it wisely and build access to our entire region and state via a functioning transit system. You can’t pave your way out of congestion and even if you try. As we’ve clearly learned, it just adds more congestion.
I fully believe that together, we must break ourselves out of this ridiculous loop of adding solely roads and bridges. A fully-functioning transit system must be part of both our short- and long-term solutions in Minnesota. Stop squabbling about what it should be. I don’t care if it is light rail or if it is a bus or if it is personal rapid transit (one of my favorites). All I care is that our friends at the State level stop complaining about what they don’t want and craft solutions around what they do want.
Amazon HQ2 skipping over Minnesota shouldn’t hurt only because of our bruised ego, it should be a devastating wake-up call that now is the time for our leaders to work together – urban and suburban, Greater Minnesota and GreaterMSP, Republicans and Democrats – to address and fix the major issues of today. The solutions are there, we just need to stop being so damned scared of the politics that we miss the solutions. Our leaders at all levels must be bold enough to reach out and grasp these solutions so future generations of Minnesotans can thrive.
If we don’t, this Amazon HQ2 “opportunity” cost is only the first of many devastating losses for the State of Minnesota.
Former Mayor of Shakopee, MN and Founder of Grepoli LLC
Grepoli LLC provides assistance for economic development projects and helps candidates run for local elected office.