There’s no crying over losing Amazon.
“I haven’t shed a tear since we did not make the list,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said Saturday at the SXSW festival about not making the cut to host Amazon’s new second headquarters. “It wasn’t something I was worried about one way or the other.”
Kansas City was one of more than 230 cities across North America that applied for Amazon to bring its HQ2 to its hometown. Amazon has made a high profile call for bids from cities, some of which are offering big financial incentives. The facility is expected to cost around $5 billion to build and operate and create as many as 50,000 jobs.
In January, Amazon released its short of 20 cities. Kansas City wasn’t on it.
Mayor James, speaking at a discussion of the value and cost of Amazon’s second headquarters, said the process itself was valuable. He said he was never blinded by the promise of Amazon — winning would have brought challenges.
Curbed deputy editor Asad Syrkett moderated the panel, which also included Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane, whose city is still in the running, as well as Justin Bibb, a senior adviser at Gallup who advises on the well-being of cities.
Winning the competition brings the prospect of jobs, but also the need for affordable housing and transportation upgrades, panelists said. And Amazon could grab tech talent from local businesses.
James noted that about 225 people came together to collaborate on Kansas City’s proposal. “It allowed us to talk about our city in a way that we hadn’t been talking about on a consistent basis,” he said.
As part of his campaign, James gave five-star reviews to 1,000 random items on Amazon’s website, tying in Kansas City’s strengths in each review.
Onstage Saturday, he critiqued a proposal made by Missouri that wanted Amazon to consider both Kansas City and St. Louis in one bid. The plan included a Hyperloop transit system would link the cities.
“Dude, Hyperloop won’t be around for lord knows how long,” James said. “There wasn’t tension, there was just a different approach.”
The proposal process has been secretive, which James said was partly because cities don’t want rivals to see what they’re offering.
Gallup’s Bibb said his hometown of Cleveland has yet to reveal what it offered, even though it is no longer in the running. He called on officials to reveal the information to be transparent to their residents.
Mayor McFarlane of Raleigh didn’t offer new details about the North Carolina bid. At the time of the panel, a plane flew over the downtown Austin area pulling a sign that read: “Hey Amazon HQ2, No Gay? No Way.” The stunt was part of a campaign called No Gay? No Way! that is urging Amazon to pick an LGBT-friendly city for HQ2.
In February, the group ran a similar banner over the company’s headquarters in Seattle and last week issued a “Dear Mr. Bezos” letter about its concerns.
Texas and North Carolina are both still being considered by Amazon for HQ2. The states are home to two of the nine finalist locations that No Gay? No Way! has targeted, citing lack of legal protections for LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.