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Amazon HQ2 Said No To These Cities, But Also Told Them How They Can Do Better

In what some would call closure, Amazon has phoned about 200 bidders across North America that didn't make the cut for its second headquarters to let them know why they weren't on the final 20 list.


Some of these cities say they are learning from Amazon's feedback, and are trying to make changes, the Wall Street Journal reports.

For instance, in Detroit — which Amazon pointed out doesn't have much in the way of regional public transportation — civic and business leaders are pushing a ballot initiative to improve the regional transit network, spurred by the Amazon loss.

An open letter published in April in the Detroit Free Press, and signed by 23 Detroit-area CEOs, said that "the poor quality of our public transit is not lost on potential investors in our region. When Amazon passed on naming Detroit as a finalist for its second headquarters site, the lack of a workable regional transit system was one of a few key factors cited. How important a factor it was can be debated; what cannot be debated is that Amazon didn’t like what it saw."

A Detroit regional transit plan lost a ballot vote by a small margin in 2016. Backers of a new plan hope that Amazon's critique of the area will help it pass in November, should it be put on the ballot in June.

Orlando, Florida, which was cited for not having enough local tech companies, is considering kicking off a fund to invest in local tech startups.

One of Amazon's critiques for some of the losing markets was a lack of local tech talent. Sacramento, California, and Cincinnati are planning to restructure workforce development programs to focus on getting more homegrown tech talent to their towns.

More specifically, the Cincinnati Regional Chamber is refocusing an apprentice program for high schoolers on information tech companies, according to Jordan Vogel, who runs the chamber's talent programs.

Sacramento is going to focus on providing more digital-skills training, said Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Sacramento Economic Council. 

That said, not everyone is so keen on taking advice from the retail giant. The Journal also quoted University of Toronto professor Richard Florida, a critic of the HQ2 site selection process. “I don’t think communities should be rushing to please Amazon,” he said. 

Previously, in an opinion piece Florida wrote for CNN, he remarked on a portion of the HQ2 bid process that he found particularly disturbing, namely "pitting city against city in a wasteful and economically unproductive bidding war for tax and other incentives."

For its part, Amazon continues to expand its presence in places ahead of the HQ2 announcement, whenever that might be. This week, the company made official an expansion in Boston, where it will be adding about 2,000 jobs at the Seaport in machine learning, speech science, cloud computing and robotics engineering.