Detroit’s Amazon HQ2 bid team worked ‘night and day’ with little directionMarch 1, 2018
Amazon did not give specific directions on formatting bids for cities that sought to host its second headquarters, leaders said Thursday at the Detroit Policy Conference.
A group of business and government leaders tried desperately to lure Amazon’s $5 billion HQ2 project to the Motor City, crafting an elaborate proposal that included Windsor and highlighted the region’s attributes, but Detroit didn’t make the list of 20 finalists announced in January.
The Seattle-based e-commerce giant did not offer bid teams direction on data points or how the proposal should look, which stirred some debate, said Basil Cherian, the city’s senior policy adviser.
“We were able to very quickly identify what we thought what was most compelling for Amazon to put a second headquarters here,” Cherian said, but “there was a lot of debate over format.”
The bid team of 59 people spent “night and day” in a conference room of Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock real estate agency for five weeks polishing the bid before it was submitted.
“When you bring together the number of stakeholders involved here… and ask them to come up with a single narrative that best describes Detroit… that’s a really tall order,” Cherian said. “The way that we pulled it off, I think we all left feeling incredibly proud of the effort.”
Mass transit has been speculated as one of the major factors that led to Detroit falling short. In 2016, voters rejected a $4.6 billion proposal to overhaul the region’s weak public transit system.
“With transit, there has been over a dozen attempts since the 60s to try to create a regional transit authority,” said Khalil Rahal, assistant county executive for Wayne County. “You’ve got to have the right leaders… figuring out the right way to address those issues.
“We will continue to fall behind the rest of the country until we address this issue. It will become more devastating… if we don’t act sooner rather than later.”
Wayne County Executive Warren C. Evans has said transit was one of the places Detroit fell short in the Amazon bid.
“It wasn’t the only reason, but a significant one,” Evans said. “The true missed opportunity here would be to let this moment pass without finally putting together a comprehensive regional transit system for all the social and economic reasons we need it. That’s the opportunity before us–getting transit right.”
The Detroit Policy Conference, an annual gathering of policymakers and business leaders, took place Thursday at Motor City Casino Hotel. The event helps set the agenda for the larger Mackinac Policy Conference, which begins in late May.