Sep 22, 2017 by

Tom Watkins –

Amazon has certainly stirred things up with news of its recent RFP (request for proposal) to build another U.S. headquarters housing 50,000 employees – a huge investment.

The online retail giant is seeking a second location headquarters with a welcoming environment, a diverse and educated populace, and reliable transportation infrastructure. Not to mention government leaders financially savvy enough to sweeten the pot in order to accommodate up to 50,000 workers and billions in investment in their community.

Interested communities have until October 19th this year to meet the company’s deadline to submit economic development proposals seeking to become Amazon’s second headquarters.

As President Trump would say: “This is ‘YUGE’”!

To put it in perspective, the new worksite would be a $5 billion investment with as many as 50,000 employees – “a full equal” to the company’s current, massive Seattle home.

I am predicting that Detroit and Michigan are going to be a winner in this competition! I can hear the choirs of naysayers now: “Say what”? “Watkins has lost his mind.”

How can we prevail against the odds? History proves we always have. We are destined to win because we have the “Spirit of Detroit!”

Acknowledge Our Weaknesses, Amplify Our Strengths

Michigan and Detroit have shortcomings that are evident to anyone who has been paying attention to the region these last 5 decades. It is important to acknowledge our shortcomings – obvious to anyone who is not blind or dead.

People might look at us – see our aging, thinning infrastructure and extra, middle-age poundage, so why hide the obvious?

We have exceptional schools, albeit some surrounded by those in a sea of despair.

The only major metro area in the industrialized world without a comprehensive public mass transit system

A history of parochialism, tribalism, and infighting that make the Hatfield and McCoys seem civilized.

A history of sometimes political corruption and government ineptness and, a major de-industrialized city that went bankrupt with an auto industry that wasn’t far behind were it not for taxpayer bailouts.

Yet, despite our rough, aging exterior, Detroit and Michigan have much to offer both Amazon and the world.

We are a city, metro region, and populous state on the rebound, rich in diversity. A state that embraces and celebrates our differences while creating a foundation of success for all.

The planets are aligned with political, governmental, civic, and faith-based communities as well as philanthropic, labor, and business all rowing in the same direction to lift up our region and state.

Our modern, international airport is not overcrowded and airline partners provide direct flights to Seattle and San Francisco, New York and Washington D.C., Tokyo and Amsterdam.

Leadership matters and Michigan has it in spades – from the mayor and governor on down to business, labor, non-profit foundations, community leaders and PEOPLE. We are:

Dreamers and doers. What we lack today we will create and produce tomorrow

An affordable place to live with a rich quality of life in the Great Lakes region supported by 20 percent of the world’s fresh water

A magnet for the creative class, drawing a quality artistic, technical, and engineering workforce/

And an educated powerhouse with 4 major research universities clustered nearby – an area that provides exceptional graduates from business schools and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) colleges – all of whom support our emerging leadership in autonomous driving vehicles and robotics.

Detroit, the onetime arsenal of democracy, not only manufactured half of all WWII armaments that helped defeat Nazi Germany, but we also put the world on wheels.

Our 20th-century history, rich in industrialized success, is powering forth today – destined to be, not a flashy, overnight success – but a 21st century, new technology wunderkind.

Today the region remains a global lab, showing the world how a onetime 20th-century powerhouse reinvents itself, Phoenix-like from the ashes, to regain our place as a great American city.

Clearly, we have the soul to survive and thrive.

Crain’s Detroit Business reports Windsor has joined Detroit and the two cities will submit an international bid for this mega project which strengthens our proposal in two major ways:

  • Uniqueness
  • Significantly increased the talent pool

It Will Cost To Be Selected

The Chicago Tribune reports that tax incentives to offset the cost of such a massive undertaking and job creation is mammoth in scope: “Washington State set a national record in 2013 with its $8.7 billion subsidies to Boeing as the company was considering sites to build its 777X airplane. Other projects that drew more than $1 billion in tax breaks include a steel plant in Mobile, Ala., and a General Motors facility in Michigan, according to data compiled by Good Jobs First. Wisconsin is poised to offer electronics giant Foxconn $3 billion to build a manufacturing facility in the state. Amazon’s package could ultimately exceed all of those, said Mark Sweeney, a corporate-relocation adviser with McCallum-Sweeney who has advised Boeing.”,amp.html

Detroit/Michigan: for the Win!

No, Detroit and Michigan may not easily reach the top of the Amazon wish/checklist.

Yet, what we offer is nothing short of a worthy risk by Amazon to stake its claim to be part of the rebound of an iconic American city, region, and state.

Amazon: Can you imagine being part of something even bigger than yourself? As a partner, along with the Dan Gilbert and the Ballmer Group, you can help re-invent the Detroit area. Amazon would be a catalyst for upping the momentum of change and progress right here and now. Amazon could be a financial and psychological boost, propelling the city, region, state and the company itself for light years to come, changing the hopes and aspirations of a generation while doing good – and doing well.

Leaders Lead

The Detroit bid is regional. Mayor Mike Duggan has tapped Dan Gilbert, Quicken Loans founder, billionaire, and a man on a mission for getting things done, to lead the winning effort.

Let me assure you, the proposal put together by Dan Gilbert and the legions beside and behind him will shine. Without a doubt, Detroit and Michigan are shining with an ability to make our grit and determination glow.

Amazon, Measure our Soul

Don’t overlook the human potential, and the DNA of our gritty, creative, entrepreneurial spirit, Amazon. It is an integral part of our city and state.

Ask the Average Joe

If you truly want to know why this is the place for Amazon, contact me or countless Michiganders like me – average Joes and Josephines – who see our city, region, and state as investment worthy.

Sure, you will be investing your capital, but we, too, are investing – the lives, hopes, and dreams for our children and grandchildren. We know this area is worthy of the ultimate investment in the future – both yours and ours.

Come join us.

Tom Watkins is a former Michigan state superintendent of schools and president and CEO of the economic council of Palm Beach County, FL. He is president and CEO of TDW and Associates and consulting firm here and in China. He can be emailed at:, or followed on twitter at:@tdwatkins88

Source: Amazon

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