Last week, the online-retail juggernaut Amazon announced it’s building a second headquarters, dubbing it “HQ2.” Rather than preselecting a location, however, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wisely used the opportunity to spark what will undoubtedly become a national bidding war of tax incentives and community accommodations to attract HQ2 and its estimated 50,000 jobs.
If you’re a business-friendly metro area with more than 1 million people and a knack for attracting tech talent, Amazon wants to hear your best pitch.
Utah should take the company up on it.
Amazon is already building a $200 million regional fulfillment center in Salt Lake City's northwest quadrant. Add to this the newly available large-scale development space at Utah’s prime Point of the Mountain location — at the hub of the state’s ever-expanding Silicon Slopes tech scene and close to highways and airports — and Utah's resume starts to look very strong.
But, wait, there's more. In the next few years, Salt Lake City will have a newly renovated airport that's fully connected to a robust public transportation system that includes rail, light rail and extensive bus transit from Salt Lake all the way down to Provo. In addition, with pending feasibility studies and legislative action, Utah may very well become home to an inland port that would be near Amazon's fulfillment center.
Yet it’s not just these factors and the serendipitous timing of the Point of the Mountain development plans, but it’s also what Utah has built in terms of its economy, community and infrastructure that makes it — regardless of whether Amazon decides to relocate here — one of the most successful and attractive regions in the nation.
In 2016, CNBC crowned Utah its “Top State for Business,” noting that tech companies “are attracted to the pipeline of STEM workers from such schools as Brigham Young University and the University of Utah” in addition to “affordable real estate, an educated populace and a strong public transit system.”
Tourists are attracted to Utah to the amount of $8 billion annually for its immense outdoor and cultural amenities. Utah has five national parks and 14 ski resorts (with some 11 located within an hour of the airport). Not only does Utah boast the Sundance Film Festival and a Tony Award-winning Shakespeare Festival, but it also has the newly built George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater as well as the nearly completed Hale Centre Theatre in nearby Sandy.
Forbes has ranked Utah as “the best state to do business” for six of the past seven years. Yet there’s an element to Utah’s political and business landscape that can’t be quantified in lists and rankings.
Take Salt Lake City’s recent efforts to help the homeless and create a safe environment in the Rio Grande area. It's taken a coalition that involves Republican Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, Republican Speaker of the House Greg Hughes, two Democratic mayors — Salt Lake City’s Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake County’s Ben McAdams — and a smattering of police chiefs, sheriffs, social service directors, heads of nonprofits, business leaders, community members and philanthropists.
It’s Utah's community ethic in which people of differing interests and ideologies come together under unified goals that moves the state forward. Whether it’s Point of the Mountain development plans, Utah’s Silicon Slopes or helping the homeless in Salt Lake City, Utah is great because so many of its people are good.
In short, Mr. Bezos, you’d be crazy not to move here.