Op-ed: Utah is Prime for Amazon's Next Headquarters
If you haven't heard, Amazon is looking for a new home for the company's second headquarters. More than 200 communities are vying for this transformative economic opportunity. The reasons are obvious: the company is looking to bring $5 billion in investment, create nearly 50,000 high-wage jobs and develop more than 8 million square feet of office space over almost 20 years.
As a matter of perspective, the 2002 Winter Games were estimated to result in $4.1 billion in economic output and supported the equivalent of 35,000 jobs. Those are big numbers. So much so, you could say that Utah has launched two Olympic-sized efforts this past fall.
If Amazon does its due diligence, Utah will become more and more apparent as the best location for its future headquarters. The company will find many reasons that not only meet their stated criteria, but also intangibles that have made the Wasatch Front home to a burgeoning tech sector in the middle of the best-performing economy in the nation. They just need to ask Goldman Sachs, Adobe, eBay or any one of our unicorn tech companies.
Most of them will share that Utah is a leading economic powerhouse because we have invested heavily in all modes of transportation, including a $3 billion rebuild of Salt Lake City International Airport; our workforce is among the most productive and qualified in the nation; that we have focused on our urban core and creating a metro region that has unrivaled mountain to metro access with the arts, sports and entertainment and quality of life that any company's employees would want.
Furthermore, Amazon should #TakeNote (Go Jazz Go!) that Utah’s organized and united business community works closely with the governor and legislators to see around corners, anticipate and prevent problems and tackle tough issues. This combination of careful planning and tenacious problem solving keeps Utah well ahead of other states that face many of the same challenges. This includes proactively working on an education system that meets the demands of a modern economy, implementing targeted workforce development efforts and being vigilant about keeping our community affordable, especially regarding housing.
A great example of this collaboration was Utah’s bid, led by the governor and the Legislature, the Economic Development Corporation of Utah and the Governor's Office of Economic Development, which have done a remarkable job working with stakeholders to put our state in the best position to compete. In many respects, this has been an inspiring effort to watch unfold. Communities and industries that stand little to benefit have stepped up, asked how they can help and lent their support to the state's efforts. We should all be proud of their collective efforts.
Looking beyond this process, there is also an overarching merit and higher purpose for all of this effort. Utah now has a roadmap to creating 50,000 high-wage jobs. This includes workforce development and talent retention strategies, strategic infrastructure investments and understanding the needs to develop strategic locations for high-value economic development opportunities. Another important takeaway from this process is that interconnection and urban nature of the Wasatch Front is not well understood. This leaves our metro economies out of the comparative mix when companies and investors are making site location decisions. Finally, this process has reminded us that Utah does economic development the right way, through collaboration, strategic planning and the thoughtful use of targeted incentives.
Because of all of this, I am confident that Utah is extremely competitive for Amazon’s HQ2. However, regardless of their decision, it is essential that policymakers and business leaders move quickly to act on all that we have learned and work to stay ahead of challenges and enhance our strengths. And most importantly, to remember that when we work together as a community, anything is possible, even two Olympic-sized bids.
by Lane Beattie