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Raleigh Makes The HQ2 Short List — And Charlotte Doesn’t

Charlotte CATS bus with #CLTisPrime advertised

The Amazon HQ2 shortlist went out Thursday morning, and Charlotte is not on it — but sister city Raleigh is.

“I’m just kind of blown away, to be honest. I’m very happy for Raleigh to be on the list but at the end of the day, if you had told me that they were going to release a shortlist of five cities and Charlotte wasn’t on it, I could see that. Even if it was 10, I could say ‘Alright, maybe,’” Carolina Fintech Hub spokesman and Charlotte City Council member Tariq Bokhari said. “But 20 cities, and Charlotte isn’t one of them — that’s confounding to me.”

Fintech Hub hosted an event in October in which community members got together to brainstorm pitches for Charlotte to sell itself to Amazon.

“We believe we have a legitimate shot at winning this project,” Charlotte Regional Partnership President and CEO Ronnie Bryant said at the summit. Reached by phone on Thursday, Bryant said he was not yet ready to give an opinion on Amazon’s rejection of Charlotte.

“There’s no doubt this was a genius marketing effort for Amazon as a company, that had us captivated as a nation, even globally, for over a year. My gut falls to they knew where they were going before they did this, which is probably Washington, D.C.,” Bokhari said.

All That Work Is Not Lost

Charlotte did a lot of work to pitch itself, Bokhari said. The silver lining is that the city is ready to move forward.

“The one thing I do hope is [Amazon has] come out and created an innovative way into doing an RFP for something like this. We put a ton of work into this and we got excited. We are going to get a lot out of this. Just us coming together as a community, like we did in the HiveStorm when over 100 people from the community engaged, we started having a next-level conversation about our identity and who we are and who we want to be. That is valuable beyond this RFP. I hope we continue on with that, and that’s the silver lining.”

Bokhari would like to hear back from Amazon despite no longer being in the running.

“I hope Amazon decides to do the right thing on that front and not just move on in that process,” Bokhari said. “I hope they go back and provide some value back to the other 237 cities that put so much into this, and help them understand the ultimate strengths and weaknesses. I hope they give back to all these cities that were working so hard to give them responses and input.”

What’s next for Charlotte? Maybe Apple, Bokhari said. He is prepared to up the ante in that process.

“An easy mistake would be to take the Amazon document and do a find/replace from Amazon to Apple. We need to learn from what we did well and how we can improve, so that we could have a better shot at Apple,” he said. “There will be other opportunities like this.”

Bokhari predicted that large companies will continue to use public engagement as a marketing tool when looking for expansion opportunities.  

“We need to be prepared for that. We need to get better,” he said. “We also need to continue engaging our city and defining our identity and who we are.”

Charlotte City Council Economic Development Chairman James Mitchell said he is disappointed Charlotte was not included, but he gives props to Raleigh for putting together a compelling package for Amazon. “Because I love my state so much, I’m glad to see at least Raleigh and the Triangle area made the list,” he said. 

“I think we should lend support from the state because I’m sure those jobs would be great for the whole state of North Carolina,” Mitchell said. “Who knows? Folks from Charlotte might be commuters or work from home and have an opportunity to work for a good company like Amazon.”

UPDATE, JAN. 18, 11:29 A.M. ET: Comments from Charlotte City Council Economic Development Chairman James Mitchell were added.