On September 7, Amazon formally announced that it would entertain offers from municipalities to create a second headquarters somewhere in North America. The conditions were that the location had to have a population of a million or more and a good airport.
The Cart Button
Amazingly, terms and conditions for this contest are found on the Amazon home page, along with the usual buttons for "wish list" and "cart."
Predictably, the municipalities are buying it. They are also creating press to highlight the additional benefits they each might confer: Like, Washington, DC--ample heat and humidity; Philadelphia--access to New Jersey. Calgary--some months of blizzard-free weather.
Oh, and all are suggesting that Amazon join them in informal wine and dine meetings to celebrate their offers of job credits, tax reductions, and other goodies normal companies don't get. These sessions will probably include the usual politician's attention seeking behaviors--for example, the leader of Scottsdale, Arizona has already sent a 21 foot cactus as a token of affection.
In all the hullabaloo, Amazon didn't even have to define "a second HQ."
What's an HQ2 to Do?
Because I have a question for Jeff Bezos, Amazon's founder and omnivorous expander: what is a second HQ? Are there specific "Second HQ duties," like buying paper products for the Amazon empire? Or, importantly, can HQ2 overrule the diktat of the first HQ? We'd better get this detail worked out. If we don't, I suspect these municipalities are all offering big bucks for an overachieving distribution center.
Today, a small business is also offering to relocate to a suitable municipality in North America. The conditions on the surface are similar to Amazon's: access to an airport; proximity to a university; and seasonal availability of hockey tickets. If the municipality could be close to one of my children, that would be good too.
Yes, the small business is...me. I am a small business, with no full time employees. But I use lots of contractors and suppliers. Accountants and analysts for deep diving into a company's business. Web developers, designers, sales people and coaches for my and my clients' benefit. Bankers and lawyers do work for me and my folks. I do my best thinking in coffee shops and reduce stress in a gym, where I pay a personal trainer.
Do you think that will get me very far with Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin? He just committed $3 billion, or about $19,000 per job per year, for a hoped for manufacturing facility to be build by Taiwan's Foxconn.
$19,000 per year? I'd move my operation to Wisco for half that.
In all seriousness, do we need to go into circus mode in order to attract business of all types?
Because, if a municipality wanted to create 13,000 business jobs, it would not have to lure them from other places in one big push. It would use universities, startups, conventions--you know,--retail job creation. Because the real issue for long-term employment growth is the business and personal environment: health infrastructure, access to nature, low crime, good schools, efficient transportation.
Back to Basics
Tell you what, all you governors and mayors out there. Instead of getting all gimmicky to lure one big wholesale HQ2, get back to basics and attract the little guy. Don't blow $19k per employee on an iffy job creator. Invest lower amounts, strategically, and over time.
Think of it as going retail on a job strategy. We small businesses will be loyal taxpayers and good neighbors.
And we won't need HQ2. I only have one HQ, and it is found wherever you see my wife.