Sad news on the economic development front: Charlotte is out of the running to be home to Amazon’s second North American headquarters, HQ2. This is not entirely surprising. While Charlotte certainly had the specs to appeal to Amazon’s honchos, our bid had the distinct feel of a 50-year-old putting on Adidas and a craft brew shirt to look cool to the kids. So the dream is done. It’s OK.
Another North Carolina city did make Amazon’s first cut to 20 possible locations. It might be hard for some Charlotteans – perhaps many Charlotteans – to say this about our neighbor to the east, so we’re going to go first.
You know how when you’re the fan of a college sports team, and your biggest conference rival is in a bowl or tournament game, and you root for that rival because it’s good for the conference?
Yeah, we don’t do that either.
But we hear it’s a good thing.
So: Go Raleigh.
We think it would be great if North Carolina were home to the 50,000 new, high-paying jobs that Amazon says it will ship with HQ2. We like the idea of the subsequent job growth and investment that often accompanies the arrival of a big corporate presence. We hope those potential gains are worth whatever Raleigh and N.C. officials are prepared to offer Amazon in incentives. Done smartly, HQ2 would be transformative for our state, and especially for Raleigh.
Yes, we know. In the past, there’s been some ... competitiveness between our two cities. We haven’t always looked kindly on each other. Part of that is our sensitivity here to the Charlotte-hating coming from folks three hours away, the perpetual sneering at our bigness and corporateness. That might have occasionally resulted in snideness on our part, too, such as when this newspaper referred to Raleigh as a “pimply adolescent” and “a smaller town without small-town charms.”
Let’s not dwell.
Things have changed between us, no? Our cities share a lot more than we used to. Raleigh has made some of the same good and bad choices as Charlotte – trading green for gray in the name of growth, but becoming a more vibrant place along the way. We also share a state legislature that often doesn’t appreciate the value of its cities and instead accentuates the divide between rural and urban North Carolina. We’ve long thought that’s not good for our state, that our diversity should be celebrated – and our accomplishments.
To that end, we should cheer Raleigh making the list of HQ2’s 20 finalists – an accomplishment in itself. Sure, it stings to be snubbed, and Charlotte leaders would be smart to examine why the kind of progressive company we want most didn’t seem to be interested in us.
But it’s a big state. We can share top billing. We can share in our successes. We can even share some of the revenue if HQ2 comes to Raleigh. Best of all, we won’t have to share the traffic.