I was lucky to be part of a small group that got an exclusive peek at a snapshot of the RFP response Charlotte submitted to Amazon last week.
In short: Those of us who saw the video included in the RFP had our jaws drop at what we saw, as it was so very not Charlotte.
As part of their package to land Amazon’s second headquarters, Charlotte’s economic developers and regional leaders submitted a video featuring a local poet and slam master named Bluz, yes Bluz, who performed spoken word, or slam poetry, in front of a variety of Charlotte’s most iconic settings. He addressed topics including Charlotte’s growing diversity, our appeal to millennials, and the multitude of transportation options. Sitting there, I was seeing all the imagery I was used to when viewing promotional pieces about Charlotte; but the difference was there was a guy with dreadlocks, joined at times by two other people, reciting slam poetry while praising the Queen City. This was not anything typical of an RFP that I’ve seen in my decades of working in economic development. But it was edgy. It was content rich. It showcased an extremely diverse community. And it was powerful.
The audience that cities must appeal to when talking to Amazon is comprised of millennials. They are techy types. And this video speaks to that audience. Ronnie Bryant, head of the Charlotte Regional Partnership, said it was a bold decision for the region to lead its pitch with diversity as a strength. To be sure, Charlotte has much room to improve with diversity and race relations, but Bryant told the crowd that the video rightfully highlights all that has been done to embrace diversity. Other topics included in the video: Charlotte’s urban campus, its existing buildings, awesome neighborhoods, airport, speed to market and quality of life.
What I saw was definitely not my father’s Charlotte.
This is the new Charlotte that was put on display. At times Bluz, an elder statesman on the local poetry scene, was joined by two others in reciting the spoken word. Bluz also spoke directly to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos when making Charlotte’s case. Not surprisingly, there also was a lot of footage about Charlotte’s burgeoning brewery scene.
During the viewing, I admit, the 10 of us in the room were at first shocked.
But as soon as the video was over, we all clapped enthusiastically. We loved it and wanted to see it again and again. While the video had humor, the poetry rap was also extremely effective at making excellent points about how Charlotte was a great fit for Amazon.