Op-Ed: What Tampa Bay Learned from the Amazon Contest

March 12, 2019

For more than a year and a half, the talk of the economic development and site selection world was the race for Amazon HQ2. Not only was it arguably the biggest deal in history, but the company’s unorthodox process had nearly every metro market in North America vying for selection.


Amazon ultimately decided to split its HQ2 into two-and-a-half pieces with the selection of Arlington, Long Island City, and Nashville. Just when we thought the frenzy was over, a new twist occurred, and New York lost its share of the deal due to strong local opposition.


In a recent Op-Ed, published by the Tampa Bay Times, I shared some important lessons we learned while competing for this project. Here is a summary:


1. Talent is king

Access to a strong and deep talent pool is the number one priority for companies seeking to relocate or expand in a new market. Our universities are doing an excellent job of providing the talent we need – but we still need more. Fortunately, Tampa leads the nation in net migration. Nearly 150 people move here every day, bringing with them their talent and experience, which only enhances our current workforce.


2. Incentives can’t make a deal, but they can break one

While incentives have taken a back seat to talent these days, they can still kill a deal, as was the case in New York. It’s important to clear up inaccurate assumptions about incentives. Here in Florida, they are not a cash giveaway; they are performance-based. Companies eligible for incentives receive funds only after they have delivered what they promised – typically high-wage jobs and capital investment. But incentives also go beyond rebates. There are many others that include free hiring and screening services, grants to train new and existing workers, and more.


3. Tampa Bay can compete for the big deals

We may not have won HQ2, but our region came together to compete against some of the country’s largest markets. And when you boil it down, HQ2 is just a catchy way to brand a shared services center. When it comes to such centers, Tampa is ground zero. Multiple global companies like Amgen, Baker McKenzie, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Citi, DTCC, MetLife and USAA have all set up “HQ2s” in Tampa and they continue to expand here.


Even though we didn’t succeed with HQ2, we should still give ourselves a pat on the back. Tampa is on fire right now. Our economy is growing, local businesses are expanding, and companies are choosing to relocate and expand here every day.


To read the full published Op-Ed, visit TampaBay.com.


– Craig Richard