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Update: 'We Are All Disappointed,' Dan Gilbert Says as Amazon Bypasses Detroit

January 18, 2018, 5:58 PM

Update, 5:57 p.m. Thursday: Amazon reached out to Detroit leaders Thursday to say that an insufficient talent pool in the region is the main reason why Detroit didn't make its list of finalists for a second headquarters, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Original article, Thursday morning:

Detroit doesn't make the cut as Amazon announces the top 20 candidates for its second headquarters. 

A private sector leader of the city's campaign, Quicken Loans founder and downtown landlord Dan Gilbert, posts this reaction Thursday:

"Thank you to all 238 communities that submitted proposals. Getting from 238 to 20 was very tough – all the proposals showed tremendous enthusiasm and creativity," says an Amazon executive. "Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation."

The news is a blow to Detroit, which would have benefited greatly from the injection of high-paying jobs. It's also a reminder that Detroit is not quite ready for prime time when it comes to luring giant businesses from other parts of the country.

As an added slap, finalists include a Midwestern rival (in sports and alumni pride, at least) -- Columbus, home of Ohio State University.

These cities are semi-finalists:

  1.  Atlanta, GA
  2.  Austin, TX
  3.  Boston, MA
  4.  Chicago, IL
  5.  Columbus, OH
  6.  Dallas, TX
  7.  Denver, CO
  8.  Indianapolis, IN
  9.  Los Angeles, CA
  10.  Miami, FL
  11.  Montgomery County, MD
  12.  Nashville, TN
  13.  Newark, NJ
  14.  New York City
  15.  Northern Virginia, VA
  16.  Philadelphia, PA
  17.  Pittsburgh, PA
  18.  Raleigh, NC
  19.  Toronto, ON
  20.  Washington, D.C.

Twitter photo from Crain's Detroit Business

A media release says:

Amazon evaluated each of the proposals based on the criteria outlined in the RFP (Request for Proposal) to create the list of 20 HQ2 candidates that will continue in the selection process. In the coming months, Amazon will work with each of the candidate locations to dive deeper into their proposals, request additional information, and evaluate the feasibility of a future partnership that can accommodate the company’s hiring plans as well as benefit its employees and the local community. Amazon expects to make a decision in 2018.

Amazon HQ2 will be a complete headquarters for Amazon, not a satellite office. The company plans to invest over $5 billion and grow this second headquarters to accommodate as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs. In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and ongoing operation of Amazon HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.

Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert had led the local push. He knows Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, and hoped Detroit had enough going to lure the online giant. 

While there was a lot of excitement about the possibility, critics thought the city would have had to sell its soul with tax giveaways to lure the online retailer here. 



John Gallagher of the Detroit Free Press speculates why Detroit fell short:

First, did our lack of public transit scuttle Detroit's chances? Amazon made clear in its initial request for proposals that it wanted a city with a robust public transportation network for its employees to use.

We don't know how much weight that carried in Amazon's winnowing down of the 238 initial proposals to its list of 20 finalist cities and regions. But Detroit's lack of the sort of light rail systems available in so many of the finalist cities — Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Toronto — makes me wonder if that became Detroit's downfall.

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