After HQ2 bidding wars, mayors urge less feverish chase of big tech campuses
- In a panel discussion hosted by The Washington Post, leaders shared insights on how cities should move forward following the intense bidding wars around Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2).
- Panelists noted that, instead of focusing on bringing in massive headquarters that promise to create thousands of jobs at once, cities should “create a community where talent wants to live," John Lewis, CEO of the Charlotte Area Transit System, said.
- “There's still that old model in the imagination of many of us in cities about luring the big fish, because for a while it's all anybody did,” South Bend, IN Mayor Pete Buttgieg said. “It used to be factories, we called it 'smoke-stack chasing.' Now it's the same in many ways for these tech headquarters.”
These comments were made with the battle for HQ2 supremacy fresh in many people’s minds, after Amazon announced it would split a promised 50,000 jobs between New York City and Arlington, VA, a suburb of Washington, DC. And the comments were thrown into sharper focus by Apple’s announcement that it would build a new campus in Austin, TX and add other sites in Seattle, San Diego and Culver City, CA.
While leaders in New York City and Arlington have tried to allay residents’ concerns over housing affordability and the effects on traffic, transit and public schools, those fears appear to have not subsided, with critics suggesting mayors "take a stand" against future HQ2-like announcements and stand up to big tech companies.
Chattanooga, TN Mayor Andy Berke said during the event that the city’s high-speed broadband internet has helped local entrepreneurs and businesses flourish, a trend that occurred because the city government invested to install fiber to accommodate those fast speeds. Berke said the economic output generated is noticeable. "In places like Chattanooga and South Bend, it doesn't take Facebook to change a city,” Berke said. “It doesn't take these monstrous investments; when two- and three-person firms become 100 and 200-person businesses, that is huge economic development for us and that's really what we're seeing right now."
Lewis said a major emphasis in Charlotte has been on building a community through providing affordable housing, transit options, good education and safe neighborhoods. Those factors combine to attract top workers to a city, which he then said will help encourage companies to move there.
"Our focus really is on creating a community that meets everyone's needs, but then becomes a place where talent wants to reside,” Lewis said.
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