It’s a Jungle Out There

September 25, 2017

How to Effectively Navigate Amazon hq2

by Avalanche Consulting

On the morning of September 7, Amazon sent the economic development industry into a frenzy with its HQ2 announcement. Now, communities from all over North America are feverishly assembling their proposals to be considered as the location of HQ2 – one of the highest profile economic development projects of all time.

The Amazon buzz is louder than anything we’ve experienced in our 20+ years as strategists. The Seattle Times counts more than 100 contenders. (We’re guessing that number is low.) According to talkwalker.com, “#amazonhq2” has been mentioned approximately 1,500 times in the past week, reaching around 2.2 million people. A quick Twitter scan reveals dozens of creative (and not so creative) campaigns to woo Amazon. Elaborate schemes are underway to charm Jeff Bezos, like gifting a 20’ saguaro cactus, making Spotify playlists, and placing print ads in the New York Times. Meanwhile, the New York Times, NPR, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, CBS News, the Brookings Institution, and a myriad of other experts are weighing in with commentary and predictions. We’ve even heard rumors that Vegas bookies are taking bets on the deal.

Regardless of whether your community plans to bid (if you are, good luck!), HQ2 has elevated the economic development industry onto a national stage. With so many people talking about Amazon, now is the opportune time to educate your community about economic development, the site selection process, and what it takes to compete. It’s a jungle out there! As your Chief Sherpa, here are a few pointers on how to navigate the Amazon in your community.

Care for Your Tribe

While the prospect of 50,000 new jobs is electrifying enough to cause many communities to jump head first into the jungle, we urge you to take time to intentionally address the concerns of your existing businesses and entrepreneurs.  For them, a project of this nature may feel like a threat the scale of 1,000 Walmarts. Top on their minds will be the serious, potentially insurmountable challenges HQ2 could have on workforce availability. They will also be keenly aware of the size of the incentives package, the strain HQ2 could have on infrastructure, and the pressure HQ2 will place on affordability and housing availability. If you are submitting a bid, engage in conversations with your employers to discuss their concerns and plan ways to care for their needs if you are declared the victor.

Paddle in the Same Direction

A unified approach will win every day.  If you are competing, do so in-hand with others in your region (even mega region) to amplify your visibility and offer a more complete package of amenities that meet Amazon’s criteria. Amazon’s vision includes an 8-million square foot campus with 50,000 employees in a transit-friendly community. Realistically, only large metros can fulfill those needs. Do your best to quell rogue community members who launch their own HQ2 campaigns or pressure you to go at it alone. The RFP has been analyzed from every possible angle in the media, for example. Share those analyses with your stakeholders to help them understand just how competitive and colossal this project is.  Or, host an Amazon Q&A forum and bring in a third party to help educate attendees about the site selection process for an investment of this magnitude.

Focus on the Journey, not the Destination

To us, aspects of HQ2 feel like it is taking our industry back 20 years. But, we also see that the journey itself will give communities a chance to self-reflect. Amazon’s wish-list illuminates what many companies – big and small – want in a location. HQ2 underscores why investments in talent, modern transit, housing, and quality of life are critical. Community development, workforce development, and economic development have converged, and HQ2 gives you a chance to engage in that conversation.

Let Chief Sherpa be your Guide

At Avalanche, our inclusive process brings people together around a unified vision. Our holistic approach connects all facets of a community into a cohesive strategy that results in a more vibrant place for businesses and residents. We strive to create positive change across the entire community, beyond sheer job creation. If you’d like more information on how we can help you blaze trails and be prepared for your next Amazon – no matter its size – contact Amy Holloway. And, follow us, @ChiefSherpa, on Twitter to keep up on the most informative #econdev news.