Why Charlotte Didn’t Make the Cut

I’m a huge Charlotte booster and I can’t stop thinking about why Charlotte didn’t make the Amazon HQ2 shortlist.

So I did some research. (See a list of interesting reading I found at the end of this blog.)

  • According to Forbes contributor Pete Saunders, Charlotte just got “beat out” by other cities that offered better overall package deals to Amazon in the bid for HQ2.

Really, better than Raleigh?

  • Some have speculated it could do with House Bill 2, which limited legal protections for LGBT people and lost the state lots of business and created a public relations nightmare. Amazon is a very LGBTQ-friendly company.

Then why did Raleigh get chosen?

  • Fred Smith, urban economic expert at Davidson College, theorizes the lack of top tier universities resulted in Charlotte not being chosen.

It may surprise you to hear that more N.C. university graduates move to Charlotte than anywhere else – including the Triangle. I’ve been told that more graduates from UVA, Clemson, NC State and Virginia Tech move to the Queen City than any other city.

We must be doing something right to attract these highly educated folks. The “lack of tech talent” explanation from Amazon doesn’t add-up.

Let’s be objective about this. Amazon isn’t talking.

And they’re not saying anything about why they are making decisions they are about their new $5 billion headquarters expected to employ 50,000 tax-paying workers. But you have to look at the evidence. Charlotte’s response was first class. It was the result of collaboration of over 30 stakeholder groups. It had leadership with experience and access to an inordinate amount of resources to create a world class proposal. I know first-hand that hundreds of hours were spent on the response. And that nothing that the RFP requested was overlooked. This was a proposal that was combed through carefully and triple checked to the RFP.

The only feedback Amazon ever did give was Charlotte has an insignificant number of technology workers. However, when look at numbers, that’s not true.

Charlotte has more tech workers than some of the cities that made the shortlist. The trend is clear that college graduates are coming to Charlotte and the data shows we have one of fastest growing Millennial populations in the country and that we will continue to attract the type of workers that Amazon says it wants.

So what’s up? The nature of RFPs are designed so you can only respond to the questions that you ask. This particular RFP was asking for data that Amazon and their consultants would have already had on hand. There was very little opportunity for a narrative outside of that data.

My conclusion is that we didn’t do anything wrong.

We have to accept the fact that there were criteria in Amazon’s decision making that were not expressed in the RFP. When you look at the selected cities…it just doesn’t add up to me.

What about talent growth? What about access to an airport? What about quality of life? What about transportation infrastructure? What about available sites? These were characteristics the RFP asked about and in which Charlotte holds an advantage over some cities that made the short list. Again, I ask, why Raleigh and not Charlotte? So many good questions without good answers.

North Carolina is in the middle of a war for jobs and we have received many decisive blows recently. I smell a rat in the Amazon. The RFP simply didn’t disclose all the factors involved in Amazon’s decision making. And as for Charlotte and the more than 200 other cities that didn’t make the cut? They never had a shot to begin with.

Want to know more? Here’s some interesting reading I found on the subject.

  1. What Amazon’s HQ2 Shortlist Tells Us About What The Company Is Looking For –
  2. How Bidding for Amazon HQ2 Could Affect LGBTQ Rights –
  3. Econ Prof Fred Smith on “Prime” Characteristics of the 20 Cities in the Hunt for Amazon’s HQ2 –
  4. Amazon HQ2 Search Narrows to 20 Cities, We Rate Them –
  5. Amazon HQ2 Shortlist: Details On The 20 Finalists In $5B Sweepstakes –
  6. Amazon’s second headquarters won’t land in Iredell –
  7. Why Amazon Snubbed 10 American Cities in Its New Headquarters Search –
  8. RFP –
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