Nation & World

This city rejected Amazon in mock break-up letter: ‘Bigger isn’t always better’

Little Rock, Ark., opened its break-up letter to Amazon with a cliche:

“It’s not you. It’s us.”

But the next nine paragraphs were far from trite. The city, in a full-page advertisement in the Washington Post, humorously severed ties with the tech giant. Mayors and development departments across the country have been swooning after Amazon solicited proposals for the development of its second headquarters.

Those proposals are due Thursday.

The winning city is expected to be rewarded with 50,000 jobs and billions in investment dollars. Kansas City Mayor Sly James, in an effort to woo the company, purchased and wrote reviews for 1,000 Amazon products. New York has lit One World Trade and the Empire State Building orange in an effort to impress Amazon.

But Little Rock is through with the groveling and courtship, even though the city initially sought Amazon’s favor.

“You want 50,000 employees for your new campus,” the city wrote in its mock break-up letter. “We have a sizable, resourceful workforce, but if we were to concentrate them here, it would be a bummer. Our lack of traffic and ease of getting around would be totally wrecked, and we can’t sacrifice that for you.”

Little Rock added that Amazon wants on-site mass transit for its HQ2, which would hinder the city’s other transportation options.

“Thanks to our compact urban footprint, many of our residents can easily get to the office on foot, on a bike or just by a quick drive. It would be cool if we could offer that, but we simply can’t do that just to make you happy.

“...If another expansion opportunity comes up and you’re ready to join the visionaries, dreamers, romantics and the idealists who know that bigger isn’t always better, give us a call. We would love to find a way to make ‘us’ work out.”

Read the city’s entire letter:

The city’s Chamber office also got in on the fun, posting a video of people reciting the city’s letter.

Paul Roberts wrote that Amazon’s footprint in Seattle, the site of its first headquarters, has been burdensome.

“What was once a quirkily mellow, solidly middle-class city now feels like a stressed-out, two-tier town with a thin layer of wealthy young techies atop a base of anxious wage workers,” Roberts wrote for Politico. “As one City Council member put it, HQ2 may give Seattle ‘a little breathing room’ to cope with a decade of raging, Amazon-fueled growth. A commenter on a local news site was less diplomatic: ‘Amazon = cancer.’ ”

Earlier this week, Nathan Robinson, writing in Current Affairs magazine, also issued harsh criticism of the HQ2 contest — calling it a “race to the bottom.”

“Part of trying to lure Amazon, of course, involves bribery: cities are trying to put together a favorable package of financial inducements that will make them appear sufficiently ‘business-friendly,’ Robinson wrote. “...cities and states must compete with each other to give corporations the lowest taxes, the fewest labor regulations, the largest giveaways of property. The more a place is struggling, the more they need outside investment, and the more they’ll be willing to do in order to bring in new firms. This gives people like (Amazon CEO) Jeff Bezos phenomenal leverage over the weak.”

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg