Long days, lots of coffee and creative thinking define Calgary's bid for Amazon's HQ2,
I woke up on the morning of Sept. 7 to an email from a student at the University of Calgary about an announcement overnight that Amazon had just kicked off a contest for cities across Canada and the United States to be the home for its second headquarters.
It was the last decent night’s sleep that I – or anyone else on the incredible team working on the bid for Calgary Economic Development – would get before our submission to be location of HQ2 is hand delivered to Amazon on Thursday.
It’s been a marathon endeavor to put together a submission that reflects the unique value proposition Calgary offers Amazon. As one member of our team observed as we were putting the final touches on the 200-plus page submission, it had been six weeks of “long nights, frustrations, compromises and successes at breakneck speed.”
And, one other thing, “a lot of fun.”
With the finish line in sight – at least for this first leg of the race – I want to thank everyone for their help and issue a call to action.
It’s hardly a surprise that my first awareness of this opportunity to bid on a $5-billion US project that will eventually employ 50,000 people came from a Calgarian. From the outset, we have said we are in this to win it and that our people are our best asset.
Sure, we have incredible talent – every city says that – but the enthusiasm Calgarians have shown in support of this bid is part of what sets us apart.
I can personally attest to that enthusiasm from something that happened at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday night. The Calgary Flames allowed us to rally close to 19,000 hockey fans at their NHL game to chant “Come On, Amazon!”
There aren’t a lot of spine-chilling moments in economic development but I can tell you that the sound reverberating around the arena sent shivers down my back!
All the cities making submissions to Amazon have their attributes but none of them have the work ethic, entrepreneurial energy and get-it-done attitude of Calgarians.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is famous for crowd-sourcing ideas so we also created an online community to encourage Calgarians to help us win over Seattle-based Amazon. Almost 1,400 people have joined the community and provided us ideas that reflect the incredible creativity and pride in our city.
We also had students at Mount Royal University create HQ2 campaigns and CEOs write letters that highlighted the unique characteristics of the business community in Calgary and how it has contributed to their company’s success.
Our young, multicultural population, quality of life and low-cost of doing business provide long-term advantages for Amazon, or any company. We have a proven record of building an exceptional work force of head office and STEM-focused talent from local post-secondary institutions and top recruits internationally.
The available real estate and tech talent offers a turnkey solution for any company that faces growth constraints in its current location. For the record, I’ve written 500 words and have yet to mention the incredible Rocky Mountain playground in our backyard. Ok, I just did.
As I said, we’re not done yet. Our submission goes to Amazon on Thursday and I can honestly say in my seven years at Calgary Economic Development I’ve never seen our team come together to operate at such a sustained high level. The work that we’ve put into the Amazon bid will serve as the template to help us attract and retain companies for years.
This is a two-step process – prepare the submission, market the submission – and Amazon encouraged all the applicants to be creative. We want to draw attention to Calgary’s bid and I encourage everyone to spread the word on social media and use the hashtag #AmazonYYC and #HQ2
We’re in it to win it.
We can all get a good night’s sleep once we are on Amazon’s HQ2 short list.