Like Google, Amazon Wants Good Government over Gimmickry
The imaginations of municipal governments across the country have been captured by the prospect of being chosen as the location of Amazon’s second headquarters. The project promises 50,000 jobs and an overall investment of $5 billion. How likely is Kansas City to win?
While the details of Kansas City’s pitch remain predictably secret, other cities have made offerings, both substantive and gimmicky. Tucson, Arizona, tried to send Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos a 21-foot cactus. Stonecrest, Georgia, recently offered to name part of the town Amazon if chosen.
Not to be outdone, Kansas City Mayor Sly James took to the internet in a “desperate” attempt to get attention by spamming Amazon’s website with hundreds of fake product reviews each extolling the town.
This is all reminiscent of Google’s contest to choose the first city to host their Google Fiber service back in 2010. Like Stonecrest, for example, Topeka, Kansas, actually did change its name to Google. In the end, Google Fiber selected Kansas City, Kansas—our neighbor to the west—to offer its service. In doing so, they told The Kansas City Star, “We wanted to find a location where we could build quickly and efficiently. Kansas City [Kansas] has great infrastructure and Kansas has a great business-friendly environment for us to deploy a service in.”
Similarly, Amazon’s request for proposals includes that Amazon has a preference for “A stable and business-friendly environment.” While Kansas City is genuinely world class, our government is definitely not business-friendly. Property taxes and sales taxes are high, and on top of that the city charges a 1 percent earnings tax. The head of the Economic Development Council said that the city uses tax subsidies to mask the full impact of Kansas City’s regulations. Let’s not forget an unaccredited school district and a years-long spike in the homicide rate. Even one of the prominent consultants working on our Amazon bid, Richard Florida, does not include Kansas City on his list of top-five prospects.
Regardless of the outcome of this process, Kansas City must do a better job demonstrating it is a good place to locate a business. Government must be small and responsible, taxes low, and services efficient. That is not the city we are now, and gimmickry will not get us there.