Columbus would be a good choice for the new Amazon HQ.
Sometime in 2018, Amazon has promised to announce where it plans to invest $5 billion and hire 50,000 or so fulltime employees at a second corporate headquarters somewhere in North America.
The prospect has had economic development experts and the media across the country drooling, while Columbus business and community leaders remained characteristically coy about their interest, confirming it only at the last minute. Columbus 2020 and others involved aren't known for publicly touting specific efforts to attract business to the region, especially not while such activities are underway.
No matter. From this seat as an observer of the Columbus business community, here are some reasons why Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos would be smart to land his HQ2 in our backyard.
Let's start with the four wish-list items on Amazon's RFP for its new site:
• A metro area of one million-plus. Check.
• A stable and business-friendly environment. Check.
• Urban or suburban sites that can draw and keep strong tech talent. Check.
• Creative communities that think big on real estate options. Check.
The central Ohio metro area surpassed 2 million people in 2015 and Columbus leapfrogged over Indianapolis earlier this year to become the 14th largest city in the nation. Now Urban Land Institute Columbus is helping prepare for another one million metro residents by 2050.
Harvard knows we're friendly.
As Columbus Partnership Executive Director Alex Fischer likes to remind folks, the Harvard School of Business did a case study a few years ago on “The Columbus Way” that it still touts as a national example of how public-private partnerships should operate. Collaboration is our middle name.
Facebook is a believer.
Data centers need sizable sites and top talent, both of which Facebook found in picking New Albany in August for a nearly 1-million-square-foot, $750 million data center with 100 high-paying tech jobs. Facebook also likely took note in its search that Amazon itself already has data centers in New Albany, Hilliard and Dublin and distribution centers in Obetz and Licking County. With 20,000 annual graduates, Columbus was ranked the second best city in the country for new college grads earlier this year.
We make it real.
Not many cities can boast of creating 33 acres of new prime parkland in the middle of an urban core like Columbus did in 2015 with the Scioto Greenways. Easton Town Center also broke new ground when it became an international model for mixing retail, restaurants, residential and office in an open shopping development.
Beyond the wish list, here are more reasons Bezos should love us.
We don't kiss and tell.
The fact that Columbus didn't make a major public plea for HQ2 should be of some comfort that this is a discreet community when it comes to economic development. Columbus could have bragged loudlyabout Amazon's existing sites in central Ohio but took a more dignified approach.
We're smart with a capital S.
Columbus beat out 77 US cities to win the Smart City Challenge in 2016 with $50 million in grants and an expectation of $1 billion ultimately invested to create smart transit of the future. Siting HQ2 here could allow Bezos to influence the direction of Smart Columbus and impact land transit as well as space travel.
Drop the O-H.
OSU will always have the O-H, I-O call-and-response cheer, but being the host of Amazon's HQ2 would allow us to finally drop the “Ohio” when telling people where we live. It's Columbus!
C'mon, Jeff, and be One of US.