Maybe we could offer to rename Kansas City “Amazonia.” Or better yet, “Bezosville.”
Yes, there’s something unseemly about the enticements that Amazon apparently expects from the city that will become home to Amazon’s “HQ2.”
We may not have to worry about that, having been left off nearly all the lists of those towns now seen as really in the running to be the site of the company’s second corporate headquarters.
We’ve lauded Mayor Sly James and other city leaders for taking their best shot at landing this e-commerce colossus. And we’ve laid out for Amazon some of the endearing qualities that could make Kansas City an appealing option. But this nationwide scramble to court Jeff Bezos and his company also is an opportunity for a reality check.
And even if we’re not on the short list, Amazon’s request for proposal is a pretty good blueprint of what we need to do to attract other businesses here.
First, infrastructure: Did we mention how important it is to get the new airport terminal built if we want to grow our economy, much less snag a corporate headquarters that plans to hire 50,000 new high-paid employees?
Amazon isn’t the only company whose employees require close proximity to a major international airport.
Yet here we are, the largest American city without direct air service to Europe, which is both a metaphor and a big turn-off in itself.
The company also needs a home base with easy access to mass transit.
As for “the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent,” that’s not the case right now, either, and our universities have got to get serious about changing that.
For that reason alone, it’s no wonder Boston and Washington, D.C. are on most lists of Amazon finalists, even if you can’t get a garage in Boston, or an apartment in D.C., for the cost of a nice house here.
The Seattle-based company says a “highly educated labor pool is critical,” and we have work to do on that front. A cause of that, and as well as another deficit in terms of attracting talent, are Kansas City’s sub-par public schools.
We do have affordability and livability on our side, along with open space, cultural resources, good eats, walkability and openness to diversity.
We’re also charming. If you doubt it, just ask us. And sure, we can “think big,’’ even if we’re not quite sure what that means in this context.
To pursue Amazon as such a long-shot shows that.
But to be more competitive, we’d have to better fund our public universities and make major investments in public transit and other infrastructure.
And as long as our political leadership continues to starve our education system and services, they’ll be seriously limiting our ability to grow.