Providence would have been slaughtered if Amazon had decided to build its second headquarters – HQ2 – in Rhode Island and its capital city. So for the loss of 50,000 well-paid jobs and sundry other benefits, we should not blame Amazon but thank it and instead blame Rhode Island’s proposal, which cried out for rejection. Now that Governor Raimondo has released Rhode Island’s secret plan to snag the online retail behemoth, we can see how predictable and uninteresting it had to have been to Amazon’s leadership.
The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, which was responsible for assembling the proposal, would have offered economic subsidies to make up for Rhode Island’s toxic business conditions, employee training to make up for Rhode Island’s mediocre K-12 education system, and transportation improvements to make up for Rhode Island’s crumbling infrastructure and backward public transit system.
Amazon would have been out of its mind to have fallen for this.
“R.I. releases details of pitch for Amazon ‘HQ2’” is the Providence Journal’s story on this by Patrick Anderson. It has enough details to curl your toenails. Go to the CommerceRI website for the gory details, which will make your hair stand on end. The subsidy package is called “Nimble Government and Responsi-Bold Incentives.” Whoever came up with that should be instantly sacked. As for the quality of life in Rhode Island and its capital city, nobody can deny its strengths. Yet even here officials felt they had to gild the lily: “News Flash! World’s Tiniest State Pops Out Coolest City.” Well, what about Andorra, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, San Marino and, if you want to call it a nation, Vatican City? Entire countries tinier than Li’l Rhody.
Read the document itself, entitled “The Lively Experiment,” only partly redacted in its financial section. Leaving aside quality of life here, there is nothing about the proposal that separates it from offerings from the least mesmerizing of cities and states applying to host HQ2. Rhode Island failed to make the cut because Amazon doubted its ability to absorb 50,000 new jobs. At least that’s what they told us.
Rhode Island should have insisted (diplomatically, of course) that Amazon must fit into Rhode Island, not vice versa. Amazon must build headquarters that would strengthen Rhode Island’s brand, not weaken it. The state should have assumed Amazon was sophisticated enough to value a proposal that forced it out of its HQ2 design box. Rhode Island should have said it would not put up with architecture that treats people like cogs in a machine. And if Amazon is in fact not sophisticated enough to grasp the boldness of such a pitch, so be it.
We must keep in mind that it was not Amazon but the state that suggested that the Superman Building strap on a pair of glass hip-waders. Look at the other images from the proposal below. They are a death wish. We’re lucky Amazon is looking elsewhere.