Amazon’s decision to cancel plans for a new headquarters in New York City immediately reignited hope among cities that lost out on the massive economic development project.
To be sure, Amazon said it won’t reopen the search process, choosing instead to continue with plans to add jobs at its other new headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, a major new operation in Nashville, Tennessee, and its 17 current offices and tech hubs.
But that won’t necessarily stop mayors, governors, economic development officials and real estate developers from making a new pitch for the 25,000 jobs that had been promised to the borough of Queens.
“I think they’re getting a lot of calls today,” said Tom Stringer, leader of the site consultant practice for the corporate advisory firm BDO.
Maybe Dallas and Chicago, for example – both of which were said to be among the original leading contenders in the nationwide search – could take another shot.
After all, the fact that Amazon pulling out of New York suggests its plan was more fungible than the company led the world to believe.
“The one thing that’s predictable about Amazon is that they’re unpredictable,” said Jeffrey Shulman, a University of Washington business professor who has tracked the company’s presence in Seattle.
Chris Wallace, president and CEO of the North Texas Commission, a public-private partnership, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that “I think that the region would welcome these types of discussions.”
“The region remains very attractive for Amazon and other headquarter relocations,” Wallace said. “Our current and future ready-skilled workforce, our education and transportation infrastructure and low regulatory environment are all great assets.”
Any potential new suitor would need to learn lessons from the mistakes made on both sides in New York, Stringer said.
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Political blowback on the tax incentives pledged to Amazon for the proposed operation in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens contributed to the deal’s collapse.
Concerns about the negative effects of Amazon’s growth on its hometown of Seattle, including housing affordability and transportation issues, also cast a cloud over the so-called HQ2 plan in a gentrifying area of Queens.
“Anything is possible: today was the day a group of dedicated, everyday New Yorkers & their neighbors defeated Amazon’s corporate greed, its worker exploitation, and the power of the richest man in the world,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a leader of the Amazon project opposition, said Thursday on Twitter.
Amazon should have included more officials in the planning process from the beginning to avoid a backlash, while local New York officials should have been more inclusive in their negotiations, Stringer said.
“New York really fumbled the ball on the one-yard line in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl. And Amazon should have known better,” Stringer said.
Amazon’s own description of its about-face suggests that the company believes it was ambushed after it had secured support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill De Blasio.
Amazon said it “requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term” and that too many local leaders “oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward.”
Those statements suggest that any would-be Amazon hopeful should dampen its enthusiasm if there are any signs that landing the company would cause too much local consternation, Shulman said.
“They’ve shown that both economic subsidies and community buy-in matter to where they channel their employee growth,” he said. “Doing another search could actually create more backlash, so you might see them pursue economic subsidies and more community buy-in by more slowly growing their satellite offices.”
The company initially said it wanted to go somewhere with strong talent, high quality of life and solid mass transit options. Those qualities would still apply to a new suitor.
BDO’s Stringer said it’s too soon to say whether Arlington and Nashville can handle most of the 25,000 jobs promised to New York, or whether Amazon will “spread it around” to other sites.
Here are four cities that fell short in Amazon’s initial bidding process that could take another shot at landing the new headquarters:
Pros: Pro-business environment. Plenty of space. Strong local airport.
Cons: Amazon may not want a corporate feel.
Pros: Centrally located. Strong local talent. Two major airports nearby.
Cons: High taxes. Regulatory thicket. Tough competition for workers.
3. Newark, N.J.
Pros: Not too far from New York City. Low cost of real estate. Big tax incentive deal.
Cons: Poorly developed tech center. Struggling schools.
Pros: Strong tech center. High quality of life. Large existing Amazon operation.
Cons: Expensive. Activists could have similar negative reaction as New York.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.