As you probably already know, Amazon is soliciting proposals for placement of an eight-billion-dollar investment that will create about 50,000 new jobs with an average wage of $100k per year, otherwise known as HQ2. It’s the talk of the nation’s economic development community, including Spokane’s.
Those who get paid to conduct economic development within metro Spokane (and even those that don’t) intend to submit at least one proposal to Amazon in an effort to entice them here. Before you say it can’t be done, before you say “we don’t have at least one million people” like the request for proposals suggests, or we don’t have the labor pool and talent, or the work force development pipeline, or this, or that. Before you start talking about why it can’t be done, let’s have a conversation about why (and how) it can.
First: for those that insist on thinking within the box, submitting a proposal to Amazon is not an exercise for you. Despite what Amazon’s RFP says, there are no rules on this thing. Amazon is a private corporation not bound by procurement restrictions like governments are – they can do whatever they want. If a proposal captures their attention that’s outside the criteria of their RFP, then Amazon has the liberty to entertain it. Therefore, metro Spokane is only limited by our own creativity and the amount of incentives we can offer Amazon (and both factors are closely related).
Second: we are what we say we are. Either metro Spokane chooses to be a 21st-century city, or we don’t. Going after proposals like Amazon is what 21st-century cities do. Whether you think we can compete for HQ2, or you think we can’t, you’re right.
Third: the organizational exercise to attract big money tech to Spokane is a healthy one. Just galvanizing the diverse regional perspectives of the metro into a common vision and then organizing it into commitments on paper is a victory unto itself.
Fourth: when Amazon chooses Spokane for HQ2, we are no longer the City of Spokane, we are the City of Amazon. Local municipal plans, Spokane Transit Authority plans, Greater Spokane, Inc. plans, Downtown Spokane Partnership plans, Gonzaga’s plans, WAZZU’s plans, Eastern Washington University, every local school district, the Public Facilities District, the local banking and investment community, day dreams of local real estate brokerages, our development community, whatever the heck it is Kootenai County is doing, everything changes. All eyes will orient themselves on the growth that Amazon will bring to the region and regional planning efforts will adapt accordingly – a total paradigm shift.
Of all the incentives that a mid-market like Spokane brings to the table, this is perhaps the most significant. Every local governmental jurisdiction and every private business in the region will accommodate, whether they want to or not, the growth that Amazon’s HQ2 will bring with it.
Last: Spokane is going to compete for HQ2, so much so that there may be more than one proposal – a good thing (at least form my perspective). It’s a near certainty, given the continental competitiveness of winning Amazon’s attention, that Spokane’s standard procedure for submitting proposals to job-creating firms is insufficient. To win the hearts and minds of Amazon’s real estate executives, we best show some creativity on par with an international firm that prides itself on just that sort of thing.
Spokane’s traditional economic development system ain’t gonna’ cut it on this one. To capture Amazon’s attention, we win by innovating.
In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the Amazon HQ2 RFP.