The economic development world is all aflutter about Amazon seeking a location for HQ2, its second headquarters in the United States. The requirements are very specific, and large cities throughout the nation are lining up to court the online retail giant.
What about Webster Parish? Are we a viable possibility? On paper, the answer is a resounding “no.” But, Amazon isn’t necessarily a “play it safe” company, and neither is their founder.
Jeff Bezos is the same person who ran Amazon for years without showing a profit. He had long-term vision. He is also the person who bought the Washington Post and is now finalizing the purchase of Whole Foods because he sees these companies’ value to their communities/world.
This HQ2, while being a great asset to any of America’s major cities, would create America’s next major city if it was located in a rural North Louisiana community. What would have a greater impact on his legacy? Locating in yet another metropolis, or creating a metropolis?
This would be no small feat, mind you. It would require a collaborative effort from many just to get an audience or consideration. Many questions would need to be answered. However, I can’t help but think of a certain plot of land near Goodwill Road that was considered “perfect” for an automobile manufacturer. Could this be our ace in the hole?
This would be the longest of shots for sure. We meet very little of the criteria of the Request for Proposals. I-20 is but one major highway. We do have the LONI Fiber optic network running along it, and Louisiana Tech is certainly considered “excellent,” especially in technology circles.
Here are some other things to consider. Please know that I am not trying to be a “Pollyanna.” I understand the colossal nature of this undertaking and that the entire deck is stacked against us in this endeavor.
Others have overcome the same obstacles (on a smaller scale). CSRA has many traits similar to Amazon, Google and other tech companies. Because of the work of Bossier City, Parish, Cyber Innovation Center, etc., they are now just 25 miles to our east. CIC was considered by many a “waste of money” until the fruits of their labors began to appear. Granted, Bossier Parish has the money to invest in such endeavors due to revenues from gaming.
Amazon is no stranger to challenging situations . As merely a book e-tailer, many looked down on their efforts. They would never compete with the Books-A-Million and Barnes and Noble stores, many said. Amazon’s ability to overcome great odds was very satisfying to them, I would imagine. Overcoming the challenges of North Louisiana may be right up their alley.
Companies the size of Amazon attract talent, especially at the “C” level. Workforce would come, and Amazon (with our help and cooperation) would make this area a place they would want to live work, and play.
What would it hurt to try? So we try and fail. Is it a loss? Or, do we learn a lot about ourselves, build lasting relationships and bonds within and outside our community? Do we we end up improving things on a “fast track” because of the effort to land Amazon? Even if we didn’t land HQ2, the cooperation we could foster as a result of this effort could go along way to future economic development opportunities. We might just catch the eye of another.
Sure, there will be naysayers. Even our own Secretary of Economic Development isn’t mentioning north Louisiana, and he’s from Bossier City.
Sometimes, people need a tangible goal/prize/deadline to reach in order to make improvement a high priority. Maybe, if we catch the vision, and really try to make it happen, things will actually change/improve.
In all, I know it would be a lot of work, but it could be a lot of fun. And who knows, it could change our community for generations to come.