Was Amazon Bid The Right Use of Time for Detroit?

Jake Neher/WDET

Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah (left) and Crain’s Detroit Business Reporter Kirk Pinho (right)

Detroit will not be home to Amazon’s second North American Headquarters.

The internet retail giant yesterday released its list of 20 cities that made its first cut in the process of finding a home for its new headquarters. It included a lot of cities that had been rumored to be in the running: Chicago, Raleigh, Denver, Dallas, Atlanta. Washington D.C. essentially made the list three times: the district itself as well as Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland.

Cities that were missing? A lot of those cities that needed those jobs the most. Detroit and Baltimore — which had a very intriguing bid — were two of the notable omissions.

Now that we know we won’t be getting tens-of-thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment from Amazon, where does Detroit go from here? And what does this say about these high-profile contests to lure huge corporations? Was this ever the right use of time and energy for Detroit?

Joining Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about the process and answer those questions are Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah and Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Kirk Pinho.

At the end of the day, this was a fabulous experience,” says Baruah. “I think everyone in the Detroit region should be proud… that we were in a position to compete for this. This would not have been the case five years ago, ten years ago. I don’t think we would have been in the game.”

I’ve been doing economic development for a long time. This was a world-class proposal,” he says. “So, at the end of the day, yeah, we’re disappointed we’re not on the list. But we learned a lot. We have a template for future large-scale investments like this… So I’m very happy with the outcome.”

Pinho was part of a reporting team that published a number of in-depth pieces for Crain’s about the process. Crian’s got hold of the actual bid document that Detroit submitted to Amazon and made it public, and published a vivid account of what the bid process looked like behind the scenes.

People that I’ve spoken with have sort of viewed this as a good step in the right direction with regard to transit,” says Pinho. “The first step in addressing a problem is recognizing and admitting that you have one. And… if that’s one of the key reasons why Amazon didn’t see our region to be fit to include on that short list, then that’s sort of a kick in the rear.”

Pinho also talks about reports that Amazon felt Southeast Michigan lacks adequate talent to fill jobs, and the role that played in Detroit’s omission from the “HQ2” short list.

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.

Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.

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