So, Amazon swiped left. The New York Times article got it right. It predicted that Amazon would not consider Charlotte for its headquarters. And, Amazon did not. Rejection is painful. But at least we have a reason, if not the reason, why we didn’t make the cut. We need more educated folks, specifically folks educated in technology fields. And, according to the Times, we need more personality: more art, more festivals, more edginess. In a word, we weren’t that interesting.
Now, before I get your angry e-mails, please know I enjoy living in Charlotte. It’s where I’ve lived for more than two decades. It’s the city where I’m raising my daughter. But we suffer from a chronic case of “emperor’s new robe-itis.” We sometimes see ourselves as being much more grand and fabulous than we actually are. And although having high self-esteem is important, having a skewed sense of ourselves causes problems. So each time we get feedback that we’re not quite there as a city, it’s a good thing. It presents another moment to reflect and pivot if we choose to do so.
How do we do that? We could spend more time revising our profile – writing a better story – so that we appear more interesting, more appealing. We should be careful, though. We’ve gotten really good at writing and believing a lot of the stories we’ve told ourselves over the years. That hasn’t turned out so well for us.
While we’re reeling from (and dissecting and analyzing) this rejection – we have to move on quickly because the opportunity to bid on Apple’s new headquarters will soon be upon us – I wonder if we could also work on having a better story rather than just writing one?
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What do we need to do as a community to be the chosen one? Amazon gave us a little bit of a clue. The answer is a familiar one. We have to continue to work on education and, if we believe the folks in New York, we have to continue to make Charlotte cool. Being pretty isn’t enough.
The most recent education issue we’re discussing involves class size. What difference does class size make when it comes to educational outcomes? In most instances, research and projects have found that small class size has a significant, positive impact on the academic performance of students in primary grades, especially economically disadvantaged children and children of color.
But how might school districts have to pay for those outcomes? By sacrificing art classes and possibly laying off computer science teachers – thwarting the cultivation of the very traits that would make us more attractive, not to mention limiting the opportunities for members of our community to have jobs that might address our issues with upward mobility.
We must find a better way as a city and state. Nothing makes you create a different vision like disappointment. Amazon’s response is just a reminder that we have to be just as committed to making Charlotte as we do to marketing it.