Fox files: ‘Project BOAT reflections’

Last week, my phone was incessantly buzzing with friends sharing news articles and analyses on Amazon’s decision to locate HQ2 and HQ3 in N.Y.C. and D.C., and an “Operations Center” of 5,000 people in Nashville.

Given the news announcement, I have been reflecting on our proposal. The news validated why we went through the process. Although it was certainly an investment of resources, I would do it all over again if given the choice, for the following reasons:

  1. We learned a lot about ourselves and what a roadmap to 50,000 high-paying jobs looks like (investments in education, transportation/mobility, the innovation economy, and affordable housing—i.e., place).
  2. Although we were always too small of a market to win the whole enchilada, it was our COO Mike Flynn who said, “Who knows what this thing will look like on the back end? Maybe they’ll break it up into small projects once they realize that very few communities can handle 50,000 net new jobs.” He was right. And the “runner up,” Nashville, won 5,000 jobs as a result. See this quote from Amazon in USA Today: “We realized that it would make a lot of sense for us to have an Eastern United States regional hub for our operations business and Nashville just really impressed us in the HQ2 process,” said Amazon Senior Vice President Jay Carney. “It’s a city pointing toward the future. It made itself very appealing for investment. It’s a place where, if people don’t already live there, they are excited about moving there. That’s always an important issue for us.” Given this, I feel like Amazon has some terrific information on the trajectory of our market and our vision for this place.
  3. It was a rare opportunity for us to engage with a broad set of stakeholders and to help share the ins and outs of what is normally seen as a secretive process. I am grateful we got the chance to build enthusiasm in what we do, and I’m appreciative of our partnerships with the Governor’s Office, other statewide partners, our communities, and our private partners.
  4. And, as my friend, Val Hale, reminds us, the information and effort we put toward that project will be helpful as we prepare for future big proposals.