As everyone in the universe surely knows by now, even up in our remote patch, Amazon is scouting for a second headquarters campus as it continues its relentless march to be the universe. Dozens of cities, dazzled by the promise of 50,000 jobs, have launched boot-licking, butt-kissing, political palm-greasing campaigns to lure the big online retailer. You can almost hear the chorus of come-ons in response to Amazon’s demand for “incentives:” Massive tax breaks! Land, land and more land — all free!
Behind all the hype, someone will cash in on an economic bonanza too big to quantify. I know what some of you are thinking: Why not us? Certainly we have as much to offer as Detroit or St. Louis. There’s that empty industrial park in Twisp; Amazon could fill that right up and finally banish the ghost of the Wagner mill. There’s the former community school/skating rink building in Winthrop. Since it’s already destined to be a satellite office, why not suggest that Amazon consider a few satellites to the satellite and make use of some of the vacant lots in the valley?
Out of curiosity, I tracked down a copy of the Amazon request-for-proposals (RFP).
It’s imposing, stern and rigorous. But we in the Methow are made of stern and rigorous stuff. I took stock of our assets:
Amazon wants a stable and business-friendly environment. Check.
It will consider “communities that think big and creatively when considering locations and real estate options.” That’s us.
It is “committed to sustainability efforts.” We got there first.
It wants to be able to attract technical talent. Even IT nerds aren’t immune to a view of Goat Peak at sunset.
It is seeking a metropolitan area with more than a million people. A high bar, but if the Methow included its worldwide devotees, we could clear it — at least in Facebook likes. And isn’t Amazon all about virtual reality?
Then I had a flashback to my last trip to Seattle. Call it Urban PTSD.
And I realized I was asking the wrong question: Not would Amazon 2.0 want us, but would we want it?
• Those 50,000 jobs that Amazon projects? We could handle 50,000 people. They just couldn’t all come at once.
• Housing. In Seattle, Amazonians pack into minimalist, densely-packed high-rises. The higher the floor, the better the view, the bigger the price, no matter how small the space. We like to live with and in nature, spread out, stop at two stories and hope we don’t have to look at the neighbors.
• Transportation. Seattle is bike-crazy. Entitled peddlers navigate badly drawn lanes, cheek-to-bumper with nasty traffic; but not with log trucks creating wind sheer as they whiz by on a no-shoulder road. The city has a complex networks of buses and lightrail; our cute little rural transit system would baffle them.
• We don’t have enough food trucks. Fork is fabulous, but TwispWorks isn’t going to let it go.
• Coffee. We have several slow-world coffee boutiques, but no Starbucks. And only two drive-through espresso stands. Enough said.
• Amazonians won’t like the cattle drives. Too rural and messy.
• Winter. It starts early, lasts long and will make newbies grumpy.
• Texter death rate. Forget dead deer. Imagine thousands of Amazonians wandering into Highway 20 while locked into their cell phone screens. A slaughter.
• Cell service, aka NO SERVICE. Even when you’re in range, there’s only so much to go around. Overloads can cause the cell towers to spontaneously combust. Interrupted GPS signals could send you deep into the back country with … NO SERVICE.
• Power outages. Could we really bear the noise of thousands of generators fueling the Amazon juggernaut?
• As for those big, fat paychecks … there are only so many places to spend your money here. So they’ll have to resign themselves to buying some things online — from Amazon. And then hope the UPS and FedEx guys can make it over the pass.
In sum, Amazon says in its RFP, “We want to invest in a community where our employees will enjoy living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities and an overall high quality of life.”
We’ve already got that covered. As for whether that’s still the case in Amazon’s Seattle … well, just ask Seattle.