Government & Politics

Sly James’s Amazon news? He’s writing product reviews to get KC noticed

Kansas City Mayor Sly James whipped social media into a lather of anticipation on Wednesday with an early-morning tweet suggesting some kind of announcement about Amazon.

The mysterious message arrived little more than a week before proposals are due from cities hoping to land the online retailer’s second headquarters.

Had Amazon made a decision? Maybe Kansas City made the short list of cities in line for Amazon’s HQ2, which would bring 50,000 jobs to whichever city lands the project.

It was neither. By Wednesday afternoon, James posted a video online showing him flooding product reviews on with quirky exhortations about Kansas City in an apparent effort to get the company’s attention.

For example, James posted a review for a stereo adapter, and found a way to play up the number of freeway miles in Kansas City that help people get around quickly.

“I live in Kansas City and the commute is a breeze. We have more freeway miles per capita than any other city our size, which means it’s easy to get around wherever you are going in just a few minutes,” James’ apparent product review said. “You know what is easier than that? Our public transportation system, like the streetcar and/or bus.”

Some 89 additional product reviews posted by James on Wednesday afternoon followed a similar theme.

“It’s no secret we believe Amazon is a great fit for Kansas City,” James said in a written statement. “So the idea was easy — make Kansas City the most well-reviewed city on Amazon.”

Cities have until Oct. 19 to submit their pitches to Amazon, which wants to locate a second headquarters outside of its current headquarters in Seattle.

Nearly any city of size — Amazon wants submissions from cities with at least 1 million people — is expected to make an overture to Amazon. The Kansas City Area Development Council is leading the Kansas City metro area’s effort to entice Amazon.

Elected leaders in both Kansas and Missouri have promised an aggressive pursuit of Amazon, which will likely extract a large haul of public incentives from whichever location Amazon chooses.

“The state is 100 percent behind St. Louis, Kansas City, all of these proposals,” said Gov. Eric Greitens on Wednesday, who spoke to reporters in Kansas City after he was climbing rock walls at a veteran-owned climbing gym. “We’ve been in contact as a state with Amazon. We want to fight for every job in the state of Missouri. This is a fantastic opportunity to bring a big company to Missouri. We’re going to fight for those jobs.”

In doing so, some cities are resorting to publicity stunts.

Tuscon, Ariz., for example, wanted to send Amazon a 21-foot cactus. Amazon passed on the gift.

“If this helps us get in the finals of Amazon HQ2, that’s great,” James said in a statement. “If not, we’ll still be proud of this city’s future, and a few of us will be a wind chime or two richer.”

The Star’s Bryan Lowry contributed to this report.

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt