HQ2 is making cities consider projects they have been ignoring for years — and it shows the power of Amazon

  • Amazon‘s search for its second quarters is having an outsize effect on cities.
  • The possibility of landing HQ2 has enticed cities to embark on or jump-start infrastructure projects they previously weren’t considering.
  • The fact Amazon is the root shows how big an influence the company has on American cities.

To lure Amazon, it seems cities will do anything – even improve their infrastructure.

Cities are approving projects intended to beef up public transit, enrich education, and make housing more accessible, all to make themselves more attractive to the tech giant.

Cities often make lofty promises with the hope of becoming the home base for a company. But experts say it’s different with Amazon, which has promised 50,000 jobs and $US5 billion in local investment.

“I’m not sure we’ve ever seen it on the same scale as the Amazon HQ2 search,” Sean Slone, the director of transportation and infrastructure policy at the Council of State Governments, told USA Today.

Amazon specifically identified its needs for its HQ2 site, and two of the biggest are education and transit. It’s in these areas cities seem to be focusing.

In May, Atlanta, an HQ2 contender, consolidated its public transit into the Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority. Earlier this year, Georgia announced plans to spend $US100 million and build a bus rapid-transit corridor along a busy Atlanta street. The city included the project in its pitch to Amazon, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Earlier this year in Washington, DC, widely considered a frontrunner for HQ2, the three area governments together agreed to infuse the ailing Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Washington, Virginia, and Maryland agreed to provide a combined $US500 million a year to fund the turnaround of the Metro rapid-transit system, which runs through all three, The Washington Post reported.

The HQ2 competition has even prompted action by cities that are already out of the running. Detroit, for example, is pushing a ballot measure for a regional transportation system that would connect the city and its regional suburbs after being told its bid failed because of a lack of such transportation options, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Educating the future workforce – for Amazon or any big company

Dc hq2DC GovernmentA rendering from the HQ2 proposal from Washington, DC.

Other states are taking a look at their workforce and realising they need to change the way they approach education to attract big fish like Amazon.

Kansas City, which didn’t make the shortlist, is making efforts to overhaul its computer-science courses and train new teachers.

“You can draw a loose line between Amazon and the legislation that just passed,” Ryan Weber, the leader of the KC Tech Council, a local group that advocates tech education, told USA Today. “I think it was made a priority because of the Amazon response.”

Cincinnati and Sacramento, California, which also put forth failed HQ2 bids, are now trying to beef up their tech talent with apprenticeships and student-focused programs.

Amazon isn’t the only company cities are courting, even the ones still in the running for the new headquarters. Rather, as The Journal put it, the HQ2 contest is being seen as a wake-up call for cities around the US as they examine why their bids failed and seek out changes needed to compete.

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