Amazon's reality show approach to naming the state and local government that wins the honor of giving it billions in handouts entered the "prelude to Rose Ceremony" phase last week with its release of the most predictable list of finalist cities ever.
Chicago? Austin? You don't say.
You can see the layers of bullshit from a mile away. It's very obvious that the executives have no interest in finding a place that best fit the criteria and instead just want to make sure they can relocate somewhere sufficiently Cool. How can I tell? Because Detroit isn't on the list.
If this process were driven by any kind of legitimate analysis of what each city can offer, places like Detroit and St. Louis would be at the top of the list. Memphis and Louisville too, maybe Indianapolis. Any of them could fit the following description, but for narrative simplicity let's just talk about Detroit.
Detroit is one of the handful of examples of a city in which it really, legitimately makes sense to find a company like Amazon and say "Here, take whatever you want." Billions in tax giveaways to get a company to move to Chicago, Austin, or Pittsburgh make little sense because those cities are, on the whole, already doing pretty goddamn well. Moving Amazon in might even displace something already there (aside from low-income housing residents, whom Amazon will very definitely displace).
Detroit is half empty. It and St. Louis have not one but TWO enormous airports largely idle. If any local government could make the argument, "Look, let's just give them the Renaissance Center for free" and have it not be an exercise in pointless corporate bootlicking, it's Detroit. The company could utterly call the shots in a place like that since there is so much unoccupied construction. "Detroit, we would like our HQ here, can you raze this ten square block area?" Yes. Yes they sure can.
And nobody would be displaced. Ideally that's how a process like this would work. Find capacity that isn't being used and use it. Instead they're going to show up in Atlanta or Austin or Chicago, point to an area that is already occupied, and say "Get rid of them, we want this." And of course the state and local governments will bend over backwards to do it.
But why? It makes no sense of course, but the higher ups at a tech company basically just want to make sure they can live somewhere suitably Hip. The tax breaks are irrelevant – any state government will readily hand those over in staggering amounts these days.
Next time some corporate giant goes through this process they should just admit "We only think the coasts and maybe four places between them are good enough, so everyone else fuck off." Save Buffalo the trouble. In a system with even the faintest echo of economic planning, though, our government at the national level would be working to direct this process toward the places where 1) infrastructure is in place but currently idle, i.e. being wasted and 2) bringing in a new corporate giant won't displace a lot of what is already there.
But planning is Communist, so instead we get this shitshow leading up to the inevitable "We're going to Austin!" announcement, ignoring that the city is already a cookie with vastly too much cream shoved in it, no remotely affordable housing, and an impending water crisis that will resemble something in Road Warrior. But it's just so COOL.