In Dallas, the city teamed up with a major developer and the parent company of The Dallas Morning News to unveil a 50-acre downtown location for a future Amazon campus.
In Birmingham, Alabama, enormous Amazon delivery boxes have been strategically placed around the city. The mayor touted the need for “something very dramatic to get the attention of Amazon and the public to let them know we’re serious about it.”
Tucson loaded a 21-foot Saguaro cactus onto a flatbed, a gift for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. He declined.
The prickly gift isn’t the sort of enticement that Amazon is seeking. Tax breaks and other incentives will gladly be accepted.
So what about Kansas City’s bid to land Amazon’s HQ2?
It’s awfully quiet here. There have been no public pronouncements, no elaborate unveiling of potential sites and no visible efforts to engage residents in this effort or convince Amazon that we are a serious contender.
Those close to the process have suggested that the dearth of details is a result of a non-disclosure agreement between Amazon and the Kansas City Area Development Council, which is coordinating our bid.
Tim Cowden, president and CEO, noted the council’s “responsibility to protect our region’s competitive advantage,” in a statement.
“There is nothing we can do at this stage to lock in a win for the KC region. There are, however, a long list of things we can do to lose it,” Cowden said. “We are preparing to build a relationship with Amazon, listening to their vision and needs for HQ2 and customizing how KC will respond.”
Proposals are due October 19. About 200 people, including leaders from both sides of the state line are involved in the regional effort.
The collaboration is laudable. The secrecy is not.
In its request for proposals, Amazon does say that cities making a bid must abide by a non-disclosure agreement, noting “certain aspects of the project and details regarding the company are confidential, proprietary, and constitute trade secrets.”
Fine. But that’s aimed at keeping a lid on Amazon’s proprietary information — not the cities’ best arguments about why they would be perfect for HQ2. Other contender cities that are playing by the same Amazon-imposed rules have managed to make more information public.
If Kansas City’s shroud of secrecy feels familiar, it is. Doing business behind closed doors too often seems to be the standard operating procedure for local leaders.
Kansas City officials tried to push through a secret plan for Burns & McDonnell to build a $1 billion airport terminal. That backfired. Another firm was eventually chosen.
In Tonganoxie, Tyson Foods made a surprise announcement that it would build a plant, which was news to residents. That backfired. After opposition mounted, Tyson put its plans “on hold.”
Working completely behind the scenes on the Amazon bid cuts members of the community out of the process, tamping down enthusiasm by limiting input to a select few.
In its request for proposals, Amazon says it “welcomes the opportunity” to engage with cities in the creation of an incentive package. Kansas City-area residents shouldn’t be left wondering what local officials are offering up or where they’re looking to locate a sprawling campus that would be a game-changer for the region.