Patrick Ishmael

My colleague Patrick Tuohey has talked at length about the stunts some have pulled to try and get Amazon to bring its second headquarters, or "HQ2," to Missouri. That silliness, paired with the tax incentives that almost certainly accompany both Kansas City's and Saint Louis's Amazon proposals, give off a whiff of desperation—desperation that, frankly, is warranted for some politicians, but unwarranted with regard to the fundamentals of the regions themselves.

I also take exception to the Coastal notion that our cities are flatly uncompetitive, and the specific suggestion that Saint Louis is some charity case. In fact, there are very strong business cases for Amazon to consider both Kansas City and Saint Louis that have nothing to do with charity. And with respect, if Amazon doesn't recognize and exploit those advantages, other companies will.

Make no mistake: I would love to see Amazon come to Kansas City and/or Saint Louis, and Show-Me Institute analysts have written about the advantages that Missouri's biggest cities bring to the table for literally years now.

This isn't to gloss over the cities' problems, either, whether it be crime, governmental mismanagement, regressive taxation, or a whole host of other issues discussed on this site in the past. Too often city and state leaders try to hit home runs with tax incentives and paper-thin kabuki PR campaigns to compensate for the fact that they don't consistently hit the singles and doubles that actually lead to economic wins—keeping residents safe, maintaining infrastructure, treating businesses fairly, and the like.

But no city, anywhere, is perfect; all cities fall short at times, and the process of local government reform and improvement is a continual effort.

What Kansas City and Saint Louis are world-class at—intermodality, centrality, cost, and livability—accentuate the fact that both cities, jointly and separately, should be in Amazon's final conversations about advantageous sites. Two terrific papers written for SMI by Wendell Cox (the most recent being Kansas City's, published last year) reiterate this truth and are available via the links below.

Whether Amazon comes to Missouri certainly remains to be seen, and the odds are against it. But win or lose, Kansas City, Saint Louis, and Missouri have a lot to offer to Amazon and companies like it, now and in the future. It's those advantages that will direct these cities' success going forward—not Amazon, not tax incentives, and certainly not political gimmicks.

KANSAS CITY–Genuinely World Class: A Competitive Analysis by showmesunshine on Scribd

HOUSING AFFORDABILITY: The Saint Louis Competitive Advantage by showmesunshine on Scribd

About the Author

Patrick Ishmael
Director of Government Accountability

Patrick Ishmael is the director of government accountability at the Show-Me Institute.