Our view: Hey, Amazon, how about North Dakota?
Herald editorial board
Bezos calls it HQ2. It will be the second headquarters for Amazon, which employs some 380,000. He is encouraging cities to submit ideas that will “allow Amazon to determine the ideal location for our project.”
And get this: The new headquarters will require approximately 50,000 new workers with average pay of $100,000.
We assume cities throughout the nation are forming a line that stretches around the proverbial corner, piecing together plans in hopes of luring the ultimate economic trophy.
So how about the Red River Valley?
Think about what this would mean for a city, state and geographic region. Amazon seeks a location within 30 miles of an international airport and with easy access to major highways. It will need a great amount of space – millions of square feet in the next 10 years. The valley has airports, major highways and plenty of open space.
The new headquarters would come with more than $5 billion in capital investment over the next two decades. That’s a goldmine for a community’s tax base.
But alas, Bezos prefers a city with a population of at least 1 million. The Fargo metro area has about 230,000 residents, and the Grand Forks metro area less than half of that. The entire state only has 760,000 residents.
But workers would move here for $100,000 jobs. And the boost they would give to the economy and infrastructure would last generations.
We don’t hold much hope that Bezos and Amazon would consider North Dakota’s I-29 corridor an ideal location, for many reasons. Again, population is a problem. So is epically low unemployment that right now hovers around 2 percent on the eastern edge of the state.
But it shouldn’t be entirely out of the realm of possibility. Use Amazon’s own story as the reason why.
It started as an online book-seller in a Seattle garage. In two decades, it became one of the most valuable public companies in the world.
Translation: With the right leadership, plan and people, it grew from literally nothing into a worldwide economic driver. The same could happen with HQ2 in North Dakota.
The Red River Valley is home to some six colleges and universities and two technical schools. There is plenty of open land, with easy access to infrastructure and transportation. We have great airports. We are a welcome, diverse people who know how to work. We have a track record with smart companies (Microsoft) and innovative ideas (UAS development). We have America’s most tech-savvy governor.
As for our low unemployment rate, it could be overcome. We’re confident people will move here – and stay here – for those high-paying Amazon jobs, exactly as people did for jobs in the remote Bakken.
Amazon’s HQ2 would change North Dakota forever.
Is it realistic for North Dakota to bid? Probably not.
But a Hail Mary pass can’t hurt.