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‘We gave it our best shot:’ Charlotte group shares HQ2 bid feedback from Amazon

This is how Ballantyne pitched itself to Amazon, but came up short

When the developers behind Ballantyne Corporate Park heard Amazon was accepting submissions for its massive second headquarters, they decided to act quickly to put together a bid. The plan, dubbed Amazon HQ2, will ultimately bring 50,000 jobs and
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When the developers behind Ballantyne Corporate Park heard Amazon was accepting submissions for its massive second headquarters, they decided to act quickly to put together a bid. The plan, dubbed Amazon HQ2, will ultimately bring 50,000 jobs and

Charlotte may have lost out on landing Amazon’s second headquarters, but the group that submitted the city’s bid say the process better equips them to land other major job-creating projects in the future.

The bidding process forced Charlotte to dig deep to highlight its best qualities, which Amazon said were its business climate, airport, fast-growing millennial population and public transportation infrastructure, Charlotte Regional Partnership CEO Ronnie Bryant told the Observer in an interview Wednesday.

But despite the outcry over transparency, Bryant said the partnership will not be making the bid public.

The partnership, a partly publicly funded group that works to lure companies to relocate to the region, put together an “unprecedented coalition” of 40 organizations to submit a bid in record time: Amazon put out its request for proposals Sept. 7, and bids were due Oct. 19.

“We don’t need to have any heartburn over Amazon,” Bryant said, adding that his group has 98 other active economic development projects. “We’ve got a very strong portfolio that we will reap great rewards from in the future. 2018 looks good.”

Amazon lauded Charlotte “for actually trying to understand Amazon’s culture and tailoring our proposal to fit that culture,” Bryant added.

“We gave it our best shot. But we have so much to gain from the experience,” Bryant said. “This process has increased the quality of how we work and put together a major proposal. We made some new friends in terms of new organizations we brought into the tent providing information.”

Bryant’s remarks came a week after Amazon announced that Charlotte was not among 20 cities to make the shortlist. In the days since, some city leaders have pushed for more transparency around what the bid included and sought more details on any feedback Amazon provided.

“I am publicly calling for a post mortem analysis to be carried out by all of the major players involved, led by a credible, independent party,” Charlotte City Council member Tariq Bokhari wrote in an Observer editorial last week.

Late on Monday, the partnership disclosed that Amazon had told the city that its pool of tech talent fell short of what the Seattle-based company needed for its second headquarters.

Charlotte’s current pool of tech workers stands at about 47,150, well short of the average tech talent pool of Amazon’s candidate cities, which is more than 105,000, the partnership said in a press release detailing Amazon’s feedback.

“We were really thinking that if our current pool is what it is, it’s not as competitive. But our growth rate is so rapid, and this is a 10-year build out project. That might balance it off,” Bryant said. “Obviously that was not a good assumption.”

Last week, Charlotte learned it wasn’t among the 20 cities Amazon named as finalists for its massive, coveted second headquarters, a $5 billion project the Seattle company says would add 50,000 jobs.

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In this Oct. 12, 2017, file photo, a Carolina Panthers fan shows his desire for Amazon to make Charlotte its East Coast headquarters before an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles in Charlotte. Bob Leverone AP

In its bid submitted in October, Charlotte touted its “edgy” vibe, its growing millennial population and appealing lifestyle. Charlotte’s bid, sent in a custom-made wooden box, included letters from a handful of prominent leaders, including Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan, former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl Jr. and LendingTree CEO Doug Lebda.

The partnership itself hasn’t given much information on other key details, including how much in incentives the city and state are offering, and it hasn’t laid out details of each site it offered. On Wednesday, Bryant doubled down on the group’s position, saying that doing so, even by redacting certain data points, would compromise Charlotte’s competitiveness on future projects.

The partnership, Bryant said, worked with both North and South Carolina, six counties (York, Rowan, Cabarrus, Iredell, Gaston and Mecklenburg), the city of Charlotte and developers overseeing 22 different prospective headquarters sites. Bryant said he promised them that the data they provided would be “for Amazon’s eyes only.”

“I would challenge any private company: Do you open your operating plan to your competitors? No you don’t,” Bryant said.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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