For Jeff Cheney, the mayor of Frisco, Tex., a city of 160,000 about a half-hour drive from Dallas, the courtship includes offering to build his city around Amazon.
Ã¢Â€ÂœOur cityÃ¢Â€Â™s only about 60 percent built out, so weÃ¢Â€Â™ve got a lot of available land where we can build to suit,Ã¢Â€Â Mr. Cheney said. Ã¢Â€ÂœWe play to win. WeÃ¢Â€Â™re innovators. WeÃ¢Â€Â™re forward thinkers, and weÃ¢Â€Â™re serious.Ã¢Â€Â
City applications are not due until Oct. 19, but Mr. Cheney has already sent a video letter to Amazon. The video opens on him holding an Amazon box and saying, Ã¢Â€ÂœAmazon, youÃ¢Â€Â™re growing your business, and we want to grow with you.Ã¢Â€Â Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, is seen talking about catching the Ã¢Â€ÂœFrisco Flu,Ã¢Â€Â which the mayorÃ¢Â€Â™s office said was a phrase Mr. Jones came up with. Mr. Cheney also gets a Jamba Juice (Jamba Juice is based in Frisco).
Mayoral letters to Amazon are actually becoming a YouTube subgenre.
Mark D. Boughton, the mayor of Danbury, Conn., posted a video on Sept. 14 calling himself a Ã¢Â€Âœproud Amazon customerÃ¢Â€Â and asking Alexa, the Amazon virtual assistant, where Amazon should build its second headquarters. Ã¢Â€ÂœDanbury,Ã¢Â€Â a female voice responds.
It seems Alexa might be suffering a software glitch, because when Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, posted a video on Sept. 15 asking, Ã¢Â€ÂœAlexa, where is the most interesting company in the world going to locate?Ã¢Â€Â there was a different response. Ã¢Â€ÂœObviously, Washington, D.C.,Ã¢Â€Â said Alexa.
In Canada, the selling point is, well, Canada.
Ã¢Â€ÂœAmazon has something like 9,000 engineering jobs they canÃ¢Â€Â™t fill. Our immigration policy is much more liberal,Ã¢Â€Â said Mr. Watson, OttawaÃ¢Â€Â™s mayor. Ã¢Â€ÂœThatÃ¢Â€Â™s where we have an advantage.Ã¢Â€Â
Another city offering access to Canadian immigration as part of its deal is, surprisingly, Detroit. Working with nearby Windsor, Canada, which is an eight-minute drive away, Detroit is portraying itself as the best of both worlds.
Ã¢Â€ÂœThereÃ¢Â€Â™s, you know, the immigration issue Ã¢Â€Â” we avoid that,Ã¢Â€Â said Dan Gilbert, a local business leader in Detroit who was asked by the cityÃ¢Â€Â™s mayor, Mike Duggan, to lead the effort to land Amazon. Ã¢Â€ÂœYouÃ¢Â€Â™ve got Canada and the U.S. And people will come from all over.Ã¢Â€Â
Mr. Gilbert, the founder of Quicken Loans, has also built an Amazon war room, where more than 40 people are trying to analyze what the online retailer Ã¢Â€Âœlikes and doesnÃ¢Â€Â™t like.Ã¢Â€Â They are also trying to read Mr. BezosÃ¢Â€Â™ psyche. Ã¢Â€ÂœHeÃ¢Â€Â™s got hundreds of hours of videos on YouTube you can watch,Ã¢Â€Â Mr. Gilbert said.
Mr. Gilbert is the largest private property owner in downtown Detroit, and he said he would move his tenants to temporary locations to make room for Amazon so the company does not have to wait for new offices to be built.
Competitions for factories or stadiums are typically more private, but this one is playing out in the court of public opinion, said Lauren Hitt, who is managing the public side of the campaign for Philadelphia.
Ã¢Â€ÂœThe competition started that Thursday morning when he announced it,Ã¢Â€Â Ms. Hitt said of Mr. Bezos. Ã¢Â€ÂœThe next weeks are basically going to be a sustained campaign.Ã¢Â€Â
PhiladelphiaÃ¢Â€Â™s effort includes students from the Wharton School writing variations on the very same pitch: why Amazon should come to Philadelphia. This was the schoolÃ¢Â€Â™s idea, said Ms. Hitt. Dozens of start-ups have also been asked to submit testimonials about the cityÃ¢Â€Â™s innovation economy and advice on how to approach Amazon.
And Philadelphia, which sent a delegation to Seattle last week, is sending a larger delegation this week to Ã¢Â€Âœget into the Jeff Bezos mind-set and ethos,Ã¢Â€Â Ms. Hitt said.
The city would also consider overhauling its tax system for Amazon.
Ã¢Â€ÂœHaving Amazon would mean global things for our tax system,Ã¢Â€Â Ms. Hitt said. Ã¢Â€ÂœWe do have business taxes, but thatÃ¢Â€Â™s something that could be looked at in the scope of Amazon coming here.Ã¢Â€Â
G. T. Bynum, the mayor of Tulsa, which set up its own Amazon war room in his office, echoed PhiladelphiaÃ¢Â€Â™s sentiment on taxes. He said he Ã¢Â€ÂœdoesnÃ¢Â€Â™t worry at allÃ¢Â€Â about tax incentives going too far. Ã¢Â€ÂœThese are 50,000 jobs with the most innovative company in the world.Ã¢Â€Â
Ã¢Â€ÂœWhatever it takes,Ã¢Â€Â he said.
Tax policy experts are more skeptical of AmazonÃ¢Â€Â™s bidding process and how much cities stand to benefit.
Ã¢Â€ÂœWhy are they doing this whole dog and pony show? Amazon wants something for nothing,Ã¢Â€Â said Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan think tank. Ã¢Â€ÂœThey would like a package of tax incentives for something they were going to do anyway.Ã¢Â€Â
Art Rolnick, an economist at the University of Minnesota, called AmazonÃ¢Â€Â™s bidding process Ã¢Â€Â” and the broader practice of cities competing for stadiums and factories Ã¢Â€Â” Ã¢Â€Âœblackmail.Ã¢Â€Â
Ã¢Â€ÂœIf you look at it from a national perspective, itÃ¢Â€Â™s zero returns. Minnesota might win one, Wisconsin wins the next one. The company wins each time,Ã¢Â€Â Mr. Rolnick said. Ã¢Â€ÂœItÃ¢Â€Â™s corporate welfare.Ã¢Â€Â
But Mr. Gardner acknowledged that many cities really have no other course than to try and win Amazon. Ã¢Â€ÂœIf you ask any mayor, theyÃ¢Â€Â™ll say their first job is to bring good jobs to the city,Ã¢Â€Â he said. Ã¢Â€ÂœAnd Amazon is promising to bring a lot of jobs.Ã¢Â€Â
Joe Snell, a business leader with an economic development group in Tucson, was behind the recent shipment to Mr. Bezos of the local saguaro cactus, which he said was symbolic of the regionÃ¢Â€Â™s people.
Ã¢Â€ÂœItÃ¢Â€Â™s a hearty plant. It can grow up to 40 feet. And thatÃ¢Â€Â™s Tucson,Ã¢Â€Â Mr. Snell said. Ã¢Â€ÂœWeÃ¢Â€Â™re a community thatÃ¢Â€Â™s growing. WeÃ¢Â€Â™re adaptive. And weÃ¢Â€Â™re durable.Ã¢Â€Â
Still, Mr. Snell had achieved his goal.
Ã¢Â€ÂœWe wanted to cut through the noise, and they definitely noticed it,Ã¢Â€Â he said. Ã¢Â€ÂœAnd when they choose Tucson, they can come out and experience a million saguaros.Ã¢Â€Â