Mark Woods: “Alexa, what are odds of Amazon picking Jacksonville?” – Florida Times-Union

I don’t own an Amazon Echo. But if I did, I’d definitely have some questions for Alexa, the voice-activated personal assistant who supposedly has all the answers.

“All you have to do is ask,” Amazon’s website says.

OK. Alexa, can we ship a 12-foot gator to Seattle? And while you’re getting that answer, what are the odds of Jacksonville winning the competition to become Amazon’s second headquarters?

Alexa, why are you laughing?

We meet some of the basic requirements laid out by Amazon to land what has been dubbed HQ2 — a Pentagon-sized complex with 50,000 jobs and $5 billion of investment.

We have a metro population of more than a million, an international airport, major highways and a “business-friendly environment.”

We also have land. And, like Amazon’s HQ1, we have water. While this certainly can create some challenges, we think it makes this a pretty amazing place to live and work. Or should I say AMZN, like Amazon’s stock symbol?

Alexa, what city is most likely to become HQ2?

When Jacksonville submitted its bid last week, we joined a competition involving about 50 cities. Moody’s Analytics, an economics research firm, weighed six factors – business environment, human capital, cost, quality of life, transportation, geography – and came up with a Top 10 list, headed by Austin, Atlanta and Philadelphia.

The New York Times did its own analysis and came up with Denver as the winner. Nobody seems to be picking a Florida city.

Alexa, what color are oranges, Hooters shorts and (sometimes) Gators jerseys?

Just a reminder that our state was orange long before New York City highlighted the delivery of its Amazon bid by bathing skyscrapers in orange light – the color of the Amazon’s arrow logo.

Alexa, can you forward a New York Times opinion piece to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos?

David Leonhardt, op-ed columnist, asked: “Where would be the patriotic place for Amazon to put its enormous new office complex?”

Among his answers: Jacksonville.

The United States is terribly polarized. He argued that the company, like the country, could benefit from diversification from Seattle and the usual suspects.

“I’m rooting against anything in the Northeast or on the West Coast,” he said, adding Chicago, Denver and Minneapolis to that list. “That still leaves a lot of good options. Atlanta, Raleigh, Nashville, Richmond, Kansas City and Jacksonville are all among the 20 major metropolitan areas with the highest share of four-year college graduates.”

Alexa, have you ever visited Amazon, Ga.?

Yes, it’s a trick question. There isn’t a city called Amazon. Yet. But the city council in Stonecrest offered to de-annex 345 acres and name the city “Amazon.”

“There are several major U.S. cities that want Amazon, but none has the branding opportunity we are now offering this visionary company,” Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary said. “How could you not want your 21st century headquarters to be located in a city named Amazon?”

Alexa, just between us, do we really want HQ2 in our city?

Even those in Seattle have cautioned to be careful what you wish for.

Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat warned that wherever Amazon lands it will detonate a “prosperity bomb” with the yin and yang of epic growth. Nearly $40 billion has poured into Seattle’s economy since 2010. But, in the process, housing prices have skyrocketed, traffic has gotten worse, mom-and-pop restaurants have disappeared, and a male-heavy workforce has led to a sense of being “broverwhelmed.”

Alexa, what will this Amazon delivery cost?

The state of Wisconsin recently offered Foxconn $3 billion in tax breaks and incentives. And that was to attract between 3,000 and 13,000 jobs. The Amazon bidding war figures to be even higher. Jeffrey Dorfman, a professor of economics at the University of Georgia, says that even with six-figure salaries, the math doesn’t add up; that whoever wins likely will end up as a loser.

So does it make more economic sense to spend hundreds of millions dredging a river (for a much smaller number of jobs)? And what if that increases the potential storm surge risk for a city?

Sorry, Alexa, these are questions for our city leaders to ponder.

Amazon already has a presence in Jacksonville, with the opening of three distribution centers leading to gushing statements from Mayor Lenny Curry and Gov. Rick Scott.

“I am incredibly excited about the opportunities Amazon is bringing to our city,” Curry said.

“It’s great news that Amazon continues to invest in Florida and create jobs for our families,” Scott said.

One person who seems to disagree: President Trump.

Alexa, can you read what the president has tweeted about Amazon doing “great damage” to retailers and America?

“Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

Some have suggested that this recurring criticism of Amazon isn’t really about jobs, that it has more to do with the president being upset with another Bezos-owned business, the Washington Post.

This much is certain. Quite a few cities and states would like to land 50,000 Amazon jobs. And they’re doing more than offering $7 billion tax breaks (Newark and New Jersey).

Kansas City’s mayor bought 1,000 items on, rated them all five stars and offered reviews such as, “I live in beautiful Kansas City where the average home price is just $122K, so I know luxe living doesn’t have to cost a ton. That’s why at $14.99, these wind chimes are music to my ears.”

Tucson sent a 21-foot saguaro cactus to Amazon. Amazon sent the cactus back to where it belongs, the Sonoran Desert, explaining in a tweet: “Unfortunately we can’t accept gifts (even really cool ones).”

So back to my original question.

Alexa, does this mean we can’t ship a 12-foot gator to Seattle? What if we have Amazon Prime?,

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