Jeff Bezos, in a rare moment of candor — and, of course, not in a public forum — supposedly made this statement to a New Jersey power player earlier this year.
“There’s no way we’ll go to just one city again,” he said. “We saw what happened in Seattle, we can’t let that happen again.”
It makes sense. Amazon has overwhelmed Seattle and its real estate and social services in a way the company and Bezos never could have imagined.
The comment begs the question: Why tell everyone you were going to pick one city, setting off a Willy Wonka-type global search filled with hysteria?
Or, better for this audience: If you’re splitting up HQ2 — which is the latest report from unnamed sources — why wouldn’t you want to give Newark a piece?
The pluses of Newark are still there:
- No other finalist would have such a generational-defining moment (does anyone think moving to Northern Virginia, New York City or Dallas — the supposed front-runners — will have any measurable social impact?);
- No other finalist has more prime space and over-the-top incentives the state surely would rework to fit Amazon’s needs (in other words, tell us what you want.);
- No other finalist has such a combination of potential high-tech employees and low rents (how many are as affordable as Newark? And that’s before incentives).
- No other finalist would be as perfect a location for a satellite regional hub (what with the company already employing more than 16,000 — a number that only figures to continue to increase).
As long as the company is thinking about breaking HQ2 into two pieces, why not three or four or five?
And at what point are they called what they really are: Regional satellite offices.
Newark and state officials should keep trying to get even a small piece of the prize even after the big announcement. And we have no reason to think they won’t do so.
But it’s OK to think about turning the page, too.
And for good reason: Those pluses aren’t just for Amazon.
The light that has shined on Newark this year is not turning off.
The city has benefited tremendously just from being a Top 20 finalist. Amazon has helped put Newark back on the map.
When you hear, in the coming days and weeks, about how Amazon used the process to its own benefit, realize this: No city in the country benefited more than Newark.
A handful of top developers and economic development professionals have said as much to ROI in recent days.
Newark has momentum.
There never have been more development projects — or more interest in projects.
The city’s reputation and brand value are far higher than they have been in generations.
Newark clearly has something to offer corporate America.
“Forward ever, backward never,” has been the rallying cry of Mayor Ras Baraka since he was elected in May of 2014.
Now is the time to live that motto.
Now is the time to show the Amazon would have been nice, but there’s plenty more companies out there to land.
Now is the time to go get them.