Editorials

We lost Amazon HQ2, but maybe gained something more valuable

Cover of the St. Louis region’s response, slightly modified, to Amazon’s request for proposals to be host for HQ2 and its 50,000 jobs.
Cover of the St. Louis region’s response, slightly modified, to Amazon’s request for proposals to be host for HQ2 and its 50,000 jobs. Provided

Thank you, Jeff Bezos, for not picking us. We may not get the 50,000 jobs and $5 billion boost from Amazon’s HQ2 being placed here, but we gained something much more valuable.

We gained regional awareness.

Those of us on the east side of the St. Louis region have long understood the Mississippi River is much wider for those heading east than for those heading west. We understand that getting Missourians over to Illinois was something akin to getting an atomic scientist over the Berlin Wall.

But maybe, just maybe the HQ2 effort broke down those barriers and showed both sides how strong we can be when united.

“For the first time ever a real estate development was proposed for both sides of the river ... that’s never happened before,” said St. Louis Economic Development Partnership CEO Sheila Sweeney. “We realize the new way forward is to be regional for St. Louis.”

Wow. “Alexa, turn on a big lightbulb over the river.”

The proposal to Amazon was worth $5.4 billion, including $1.6 billion from St. Clair County and Illinois. They were talking about sites on both sides of the river, and using the existing MetroLink system that already unites us. They talked about a sky tram connecting East St. Louis and St. Louis. They finally did more than pay lip service to the idea that we are stronger together and have much that unites us, with only a relatively thin ribbon of water dividing us.

Now that there is awareness, we need to keep momentum.

Update the Amazon proposal and apply it to others, including Apple as it searches for a second home. Look at the job force weaknesses uncovered in this process and work on the issues that keep young workers from wanting to be here while emphasizing the great real estate values and great schools and lots to do that make this a great area to raise a family.

But most importantly, make it our mantra, our religion, that we work together for the common good, whether it be cargo flights or bridges or spy mapping agencies or tech company headquarters. That’s how you make it the Greater St. Louis region.

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