Ha ha ha ha ha! Just look at that! Above is what Rhode Island’s leadership imagines Amazon wants for its proposed second headquarters. And they may be right. Amazon may indeed have that sort of thing in mind. If so, Rhode Island should avoid it like the plague.
The state offered sites in seven Rhode Island cities and towns to Amazon. The Providence Journal’s story on the pitch is “Rhode Island pitches 7 sites for Amazon HQ2,” by Patrick Anderson. It and every other local media report features that picture.
The CommerceRI website where the public can go to get an idea of its pitch is called “The Lively Experiment.” It starts with a come-hither from Governor Raimondo, then offers a creative video sales pitch that takes place in what initially looks like an empty field. The website does not reveal the state’s financial bid, nor release much information about the bid beyond a few testimonials from the usual suspects. It does, however, feature a very, very nice video of the state as a tourist attraction, called “See just how much fun we can squeeze into this fun-sized state.”
This video is at the bottom of the website. Check it out. It is very revealing. Those paid by the state to lure visitors recognize the importance of its beauty. Virtually no clip in the entire video runs counter to Rhode Island’s traditional, historical beauty. And yet the image associated with its pitch, with its fake factories and goofball office towers, suggests we’re willing to ruin Rhode Island’s beauty in our lust for Amazon. Is that what Amazon wants? The image torpedoes a lot of what’s good about the pitch.
But in Rhode Island, the official definition of creativity is not to build on the great things it already has but to kick beauty to the curb and shove a sort of faux novelty in our face, which usually manifests itself as ugliness. That’s what it did in Capital Center District, that is what it is doing in the I-195 corridor, and that’s what it apparently thinks will attract Amazon. And if that is what Amazon wants, then we do not want Amazon.
Instead, Rhode Island’s pitch should be to play hard to get, to startle Amazon by insisting boldly that, in building its HQ2 here, Amazon must help strengthen Rhode Island’s brand by building upon its beauty and its historical character. (See “How R.I. can get Amazon.”) That’s what you’d think Amazon itself would want, another HQ different from, arguably better than, the glassy glitzy one it already has. If not – fuggeddabowdit!
Maybe it is by now too late for that. But if what is good about Rhode Island’s pitch puts it in the running, that’s how the state ought to proceed.