New Brunswick learned from Amazon bid, even in defeat

By Tom Bergeron
New Brunswick | Jan 18, 2018 at 12:29 pm
Editor’s Desk

Say this for Amazon, that e-commerce power that some feel is taking over the world and leaving everyone in its wake: It is a pretty nice and classy organization. Even when you get left on the sidelines.

So says Chris Paladino, the president of New Brunswick Development Corp.

About the same time this morning that Amazon released the names of the 20 finalists for the insanely-coveted Amazon HQ2 project, Paladino got a call from Amazon letting him know that the New Brunswick bid he led was one of the 218 applications that was not moving on.

“They were very nice,” he said. “It was a very classy move.”

Classy, because it appears Amazon did its home work.

“They talked specifically about the proposal,” Paladino said. “They said we did great work and mentioned the connection to Rutgers, which they said made our proposal very strong. They said thank you for participating.”

Paladino said he had no reason to believe Amazon didn’t call every entry. And he knows there’s a chance the official who called had not actually seen the presentation, but was regurgitating notes. But, even if that were the case, Paladino said it showed Amazon was taking the extra step and taking the time to talk to people who spent so much of their time preparing a bid.

“Listen,” he joked. “We have competed and chased after a variety of headquarters projects in the past. That was one of the more classy ‘I’m-not-that-into-you, it’s-me-not-you’ conversations I’ve ever had.”

Paladino knew New Brunswick was a long shot, but he still felt the process was worth it.

“I certainly think it helped everyone,” he said. “Even though we have been doing this for a long time, it had us focus on some things that we were not that focused on.

“We know a lot more about redundant power opportunities, we know a lot more about the value of building co-generation and other kind of green architecture, we know everything there is to know about the robust dark fiber network in New Brunswick.

“I can say it certainly has helped us already since then, since we’re currently engaged in about 400,000 square feet of potential uses for The Hub. We’ve already used components of our proposal in proposals to other potential headquarters.”

As for the process, Paladino said it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

“I’ve always thought that the Boston to Washington corridor makes a whole lot of sense and, who knows, I wouldn’t be surprised if ends up in more than one place,” he said.

Picking more than one spot makes some sense, he said.

“There’s a lot that went on in Seattle, where people questioned the validity of being that big and that central, just in respect of the disruption of the labor and housing market,” he said. “Would I be surprised if this project ended up dispersed on the Acela line? No. Which I think bodes well for Newark.”

His team at Devco will keep watching, knowing that they gained from the process.

“I was proudly of the people who I worked with,” he said. “We didn’t hire a bunch of consultants or have a lot of outside help. We spent $4,000 on some printing costs, that was it.

“It was an old-school effort. Pizza boxes at 11 o’clock at night and pinning things up on a wall. It was actually kind of a refreshing team-building exercise, if nothing else.”

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