With more than 100 contestants in the Great Amazon HQ2 Beauty Pageant, it takes a little more than good looks and a plucky attitude to get the judges’ attention. Some cities are going above and beyond standard proposals to be sure that their pitches for Amazon’s second corporate headquarters are on the company’s radar.
There’s the small town charmer offering to name a city after Amazon, a candidate from the southwest who thought a giant cactus might curry favor with the judges, and the southern bell hoping a big, flashy display will get her noticed.
These stunts may seem elaborate but consider what the lucky winner will be taking home: A $5 billion project bringing 50,000 jobs to the winning metro region.
The deadline for proposals is Oct. 19, which means we could see even more outrageous stunts over the next two weeks. Continue reading for seven of the craziest things cities have done so far.
Tucson: A big symbolic gesture
The City of Tucson, Ariz. wanted to send a message to Amazon: “We have room for you to grow here.” Cards are a bit old-fashioned for a company devoted to innovative new technologies, so Tucson decided to make its point with a 21-foot saguaro cactus, delivered to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
— Amazon News (@amazonnews) September 19, 2017
Philadelphia: Enlisting Ivy League brainpower
The University of Pennsylvania’s business school, Wharton, is partnering with the City of Philadelphia to leverage the creativity of its students. Wharton is holding two pitch competitions — one from its communication program and the other as a business case competition — asking students to pitch Philly to Amazon. City officials are planning to attend the contests.
Philadelphia also sent a fact-finding delegation to Seattle to inform the city’s HQ2 pitch and Amtrak suspended development plans in Philly, pending Amazon’s decision.
Detroit: The Amazon War Room
Dan Gilbert, the Detroit billionaire who founded Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures, has established a 59-person committee made up of business leaders and politicians, including the mayor of nearby Windsor, Ontario. The war room is designing an “Olympics-like bid” for Amazon’s HQ2, according to Crain’s Detroit.
Gilbert and his group are promoting Detroit’s proximity to Canada as a way for Amazon to access more international talent. Speculation that Amazon will choose a Canadian city for HQ2, to avoid the tumultuous immigration climate in the U.S., has been swirling since the company announced its second headquarters plan. Gilbert also owns large swaths of real estate in Downtown Detroit, which he is offering up to Amazon.
Birmingham: Thinking outside the box
Birmingham, Ala. has placed three giant Amazon delivery boxes around town as part of a social media campaign to get the e-commerce giant’s attention. Residents are encouraged to snap photos with the boxes and post them to social media with the hashtag #bringatob.
“We heard you are looking for a city that makes bold bets, has the mindset of a pioneer, and thinks big,” BringATOB.com says. “Well, meet Birmingham: a city that was built on what’s possible. Not only are we off the charts on quality of life and affordability, we have some of the most passionate citizens on planet earth.”
New Jersey: A giant tax break
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and other lawmakers have pledged to offer tax breaks worth $5 billion if Amazon builds HQ2 in the state. The plan would make an exception for “transformational projects” like Amazon’s, offering up to $10,000 for each job the company creates in the state each year for a decade.
The bill would allow Amazon to carry the tax credits forward for 50 years and sell up to $25 million to third parties for 20 years, Observer reports.
Stonecrest: The City of Amazon
The City of Stonecrest, Ga. has approved a plan to carve out a 345-acre stretch of land inside the town to give Amazon its own city if it wins HQ2. But don’t expect the Amazon executive team to be managing sewer systems and public transportation. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that the “City of Amazon” could make a deal with Stonecrest to get municipal services.
It’s a bit of a hail mary, as Stonecrest’s population is roughly half of what Amazon is seeking: metropolitan areas with at least 1 million residents. Plus, Stonecrest will be competing with nearby Atlanta, which is planning to submit its own proposal.
Chicago: A 600-person taskforce
Chicago leaders have formed a committee with a cool 600 members dedicated to bringing Amazon’s HQ2 to the Windy City. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner are leading the massive taskforce, with help from some high-profile CEOs and government officials, The Chicago Tribune reports.
As Basecamp CEO Jason Fried pointed out, the attempt may be slightly misguided:
Oh, Chicago… Announcing a 600-person committee to bring Amazon here is about the worst thing you can do. Bezos *hates* big committees…
— Jason Fried (@jasonfried) September 27, 2017
But Chicago does meet many of the criteria Amazon laid out in its RFP and Emanuel has reportedly spoken directly to Bezos on several occasions about HQ2.