How Amazon’s HQ2 Search Could Change Cities for the Better

How Amazon’s HQ2 Search Could Change Cities for the Better

Cities should consider Amazon’s HQ2 search criteria as a roadmap for attracting innovative companies, empowering residents, and driving a healthy local economy.

We’re living through a seismic shift in the way business transactions are being conducted. E-commerce is now king. We might be tempted to think the decline of retail equates to business transactions being moved from physical space to a digital world. Will our cities and the shops that line their streets become obsolete in the face of e-commerce?

Amy Liu and Mark Muro of the Brooking Institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program contend that if Amazon’s recent search for a second headquarters (“HQ2”) has anything to show us, it’s that America’s cities still have an important role to play in the future of e-commerce.

How cities could change

Liu and Muro suggest cities take a close look at Amazon’s selection criteria for HQ2’s location and extrapolate the best ways to “build up the fundamental assets prized by innovative firms and industries.” In this way, cities can best “garner a bigger share of high-tech growth,” and furthermore, be a part of our nation’s gaining “a competitive foothold in the digital future.”

Liu and Muro draw four main takeaways from Amazon’s city selection criteria:

  • Capacity to produce skilled, technical talent
  • Access to domestic and global markets through modern infrastructure
  • Connected and sustainable placemaking
  • Culture and diversity

Cities that boast these characteristics will have the best chance at attracting the kind of companies that will shape the future of how we do business — e-commerce and beyond. These companies will employ and empower local talent. And not just highly skilled talent. I can’t help but think of this recent Wall Street Journal article about the impact that Amazon’s presence has had on Fall River, Massachusetts.

Such employment opportunities will attract new residents. New residents will boost the local economy. Strong local economies boost the health and well-being of the community. And the positive benefits snowball from there.

I’m speaking in generalizations here, but cities stand to gain quite a bit from considering Amazon’s HQ2 search criteria. Of course, there are plenty of negatives to making way for the Amazons of the world — the decline of Main Street being one of them. But if the digital world plays an increasingly important role in the ways we conduct business and commerce, isn’t there value in strategizing around it?

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