Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. It’s an elephant because it ranks among the world’s largest retail companies, and it’s in the room because it has eked its way into conversations everywhere I’ve turned the past couple of weeks. I’m talking about HQ2.
HQ2 is the economic development project of the decade, perhaps even bigger. It is the code name for Amazon’s September 7, 2017 announcement that the company is on the search for a second North American headquarters location, one with size, scope, amenities and attributes equal to its mammoth Seattle campus, where more than 40,000 Amazonians currently work.
Within moments of Amazon’s announcement, texts and social media messages among Dentonites were flying, with media coverage passing between us with lightning speed. Everyone seemed to be talking at once with the same speculative energy. “Why not Denton?”
Within three days of Amazon’s breaking news, upwards of 100 cities across the U.S. and Canada claimed they would enter the HQ2 contest. As of today, more than 50 major metro areas have seriously stated their intentions to be considered for Amazon’s new home, the DFW Metroplex being one of them.
The elephant in the room even showed up in Tulsa last weekend when I was visiting my daughter and son-in-law. They were filling me in on Tulsa’s big push in the race for Amazon. The rumor on Tulsa’s streets, at least among lay observers, seems to be that Tulsa is a finalist among Amazon’s options.
I reminded them that Amazon is accepting responses to their request for proposal until October 19, so no city is a finalist yet. And I marveled at their easy espousal of the idea that Tulsa might realistically be among Amazon’s final cut. Citizens across the continent are likely feeling the same about their own city’s potential, just like many of us are thinking about North Texas, even Denton.
Our city brings to the DFW bid something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in North Texas. We bring Denton: an original, independent sense of place that is uniquely our own. We expand the DFW offering to include a key component high on Amazon’s list that the bid would exclude without us, and that is the cool vibe, creative spirit, and diverse and inclusive culture so integral to Denton’s character.
We don’t have to scurry about trying to look cool for Amazon. It’s who we are already. Amazon wouldn’t have to import culture and build from scratch here. Rather, Amazonians could merge into what already exists, a way of life sustained in Denton for more than a century. We complete the DFW bid’s relevance to the desired Amazon community lifestyle.
And what does that desired Amazon lifestyle look like? Thousands of people are tuned in to Amazon right now, and I’m one of the throng. Virtually, I’ve toured the Seattle campuses, listened to Amazonians describe their professional culture and environment, and studied the cultural philosophy of Amazon’s leadership. It’s actually pretty easy to grasp and looks quite familiar to a Dentonite.
That’s because in Denton, we live as a unit: an active, engaged, diverse community. We work and play together. We tackle challenges and celebrate together. We value creative self-expression. We applaud artistic originality. We embody independence. We are open, free-thinking people.
We love local and organically-grown ideas and businesses. We have a huge and talented work force, and we support entrepreneurship. We are fiercely proud of our place and identity. Apart from the rest, we are the link that connects the individual parts into an Amazon-worthy whole.
Is it unreasonable that Denton could be the jewel on the DFW bid’s crown when it lies at Amazon’s big feet? I don’t think so. From the social engagement going on about the topic among Dentonites, it sounds like we all believe we’ve got the natural ingredients critical for the DFW bid to stand up and out among scores of bidding regions.
When conversations shift to the elephant in the room, their tones change. “Why not Denton?” Ripples of excitement charge the air. People engage, swapping ideas and perspectives. The feeling is positive, hopeful, believing.
There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes in organizations from the City and Chamber to small local businesses and many in-between. Denton represents the collective, collaborative community wherein Amazonian culture can thrive. City Economic Development Director Caroline Booth’s October column will explore more of the project details and what kind of impact the chosen city will reap.
When the Amazon elephant walks into a conversation, digital and otherwise, embrace the buzz. It’s a great, inclusive community vision we can back together.
Hey, Amazon, “Why not Denton?”