Amazon’s utterly predictable game of musical chairs

Amazon’s utterly predictable game of musical chairs

Mark Lennihan, Related Press fileA clerk pulls objects for a buyer order on the Amazon Prime warehouse, in New York on Dec. 20. Amazon introduced final Thursday that it has narrowed down its potential web site for a second headquarters in North America to 20 metropolitan areas, together with Denver.So I noticed the Amazon checklist. And what’s actually fascinating is that with out my saying extra, precisely what checklist I imply. Not the checklist of Amazon’s best-sellers or greatest offers. The checklist of cities which can be finalists for HQ2, the fabled El Dorado sought by native politicians throughout the nation — the second Amazon.com Inc. headquarters that carries amongst its rewards 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in funding.

Amazon launched the checklist final week. And, like tons of people that’ve taken a glance, I used to be left underwhelmed. As a result of what instantly struck me is how typical it’s. Amazon has just about picked the identical finalists that any firm with a watch towards constructing a brand new headquarters would choose.

I imply, significantly. New York. Duh. Boston. Common Electrical (or what’s left of it) is already heading there. Washington, D.C., and its environs. Like they want extra jobs and expensive actual property. Atlanta, Dallas and Raleigh, North Carolina. The place all people else is shifting.

Completely typical. But we’re all speaking about it. Writing about it. Arguing about it. Amazon has completed an unlimited act of public relations. Corporations transfer headquarters on a regular basis. They select the place to take a position. However normally it’s a semi-private course of. They discuss to the best metropolis and state officers, shows and presents are made, after which comes the announcement. The information is a two-day story, if that.

Solely Amazon might have turned the method into an extravaganza, stuffed with tens of millions of ’ price of free publicity, because the information media cowl the story with the breathless anticipation one normally associates with the opening of a brand new “Star Wars” film. Or maybe the higher comparability is an election. As a result of I can bear in mind no time when each “winners” and “losers” within the competitors for company workplaces have been so public.

Some huge cash has already been spent by the contestants. Though municipalities have been cagey about precisely how a lot, one suspects that the quantity is greater than within the regular struggle over a siting resolution. Why? For one factor, Amazon, by publicly releasing its standards, seemingly inspired a big funding from cities which may in any other case not have bothered. Past that, Amazon is Amazon. What native officers might resist the possibility to lure one of many Massive 4? Politicians excitedly declare credit score for bringing a lot smaller Amazon tasks to their states and cities. As they need to. However that we would name enterprise as regular. The publicity that may connect to touchdown HQ2 might be a number of orders of magnitude bigger than touchdown a warehouse or achievement heart. Simply think about being the mayor or governor who can go on tv and say, again and again, “I introduced Amazon right here.” The status might make a political profession.

However the course of is humiliating. Victor Luckerson of The Ringer has mocked the hunt for HQ2 as “Amazon’s megalomaniacal sport present.” Possibly that’s a smidgen excessive. Nonetheless, one sees his level. Amazon has cities and cities throughout the nation dancing to its tune. The actual sport is musical chairs. And, as it’s possible you’ll bear in mind, every time the music stops there are fewer chairs left.

In grade faculty, the sport’s enjoyable — at the least in case you’re sufficiently sharp-eyed and quick-witted. What I bear in mind, although, is that there have been some children who at all times misplaced. All the time. They have been too sluggish, or too clumsy, or too simply distracted. The identical children, each time, failing to discover a seat in time.

In Amazon’s sport, in any case of that dancing and operating round, the result’s a wholly typical checklist of cities. What’s unsuitable with that? Arguably nothing. In precept, Amazon ought to do what’s greatest for Amazon. If HQ2 winds up in Boston or Dallas or Northern Virginia, effectively, that’s the place firms are going nowadays. Selections about headquarters funding are usually guided by the choices of peer firms, even when the friends are in several industries. Once we minimize previous the hoopla, there’s no cause for Amazon to be totally different.

Alternatively, I discover it a bit of shocking that there’s been no nice outcry from the left about Amazon’s company accountability in siting its second headquarters. Contemplate what the corporate might have executed for earnings inequality by deciding on Detroit or Hartford, Connecticut. An retro metropolis that hardly ever sees optimistic headlines would abruptly have develop into the recent new place for hip younger professionals and the buying, eating places and housing that comply with of their wake.

However no. The one even mildly uncommon alternative on the ultimate checklist is Newark, New Jersey. Besides that Newark isn’t uncommon in any respect. The town’s gentrification is effectively underway, and (given the explosive development of the New York metropolitan space) will seemingly rush onward, with or with out Amazon.

By one estimate this week the favorites to land HQ2 at the moment are Atlanta, Boston and Washington. The wealthy, it appears, are more likely to get richer. Possibly it’s not Amazon’s job to assist out the cities which can be struggling. It’s unhappy, although, modern left that different instances obsesses over inequality is content material to let the identical swift children preserve hogging the chairs.

Stephen L. Carter is a professor of regulation at Yale College. E-mail him at scarter01@bloomberg.web. Comply with him on Twitter: @StepCarter