Calgary ready to move mountains to land Amazon HQ2

Hey Amazon. Not saying we’d fight a bear for you … But we totally would

The Bible told us the meek will inherit the Earth, but the timid approach isn’t going to attract Amazon’s second corporate headquarters.

The competition is intense among dozens of cities across Canada and the United States to be the location for the $5 billion US development. Calgary Economic Development quickly decided Calgary was in. And we we’re in it, to win it.

Sorry, but this isn’t the time for Canadian humility.

Calgary offers Amazon a unique value proposition with turnkey talent and real estate options for what is referred to as HQ2. Add in the low cost of doing business here and exceptional quality of life, and there are long-term advantages for Amazon to locate in Canada’s most business friendly and entrepreneurial city.

We’re also prepared to do more than other cities to make it happen. As the attention-grabbing 36-metre by three-metre banner we hung in downtown Seattle the day we delivered our submission said: Hey Amazon. Not saying we’d fight a bear for you … But we totally would.

To be clear, no bears were harmed in preparing our bid. It’s a metaphor. We also stenciled sidewalk chalk messages about Calgary around Amazon’s HQ. Don’t forget that Amazon launched its high-profile competition six weeks earlier, urging cities to be creative.

Our guerrilla marketing worked.

The campaign got people talking. It started when almost 19,000 fans chanted “Come on, Amazon!” at a Calgary Flames NHL game at the Scotiabank Saddledome days before the bids were due. On the day we delivered our submission, #AmazonYYC trended in Calgary and across Canada. We were also prominent on social media in Seattle.

In addition to the business case in the 200-plus page submission, our pitch to Amazon is that Calgarians will do more than anyone else to help Amazon ensure HQ2 is a success. Our inclusive community can help build a strong workforce – a critical concern for Amazon – and our quality of life will help the company attract and retain top talent.

We would move mountains for Amazon but we don’t have to with a Rocky Mountain playground in our backyard.

We also noted Canada’s embrace of global trade and immigration is critical for a multinational company like Amazon at a time when protectionist sentiment is growing in many counties. With almost 13 million square feet of downtown office space available, Calgary has immediate options to accommodate Amazon’s 5,000 employees the day HQ2 opens, and the 50,000 expected within a decade. Calgary has two downtown options for Day 1 as well as three downtown sites and 10 suburban locations as options to meet Amazon’s long-term growth plans.

Our top selling point to Amazon – in fact, any company facing constraints in its current location – is the talent in Calgary. With one of the best-educated workforces in Canada and the highest concentration of engineers and geoscientists in the country, our people are our best asset.

It is important to remember HQ2 isn’t a distribution hub or technology centre but a head office. A city like Calgary, with 124 of the S&P TSX 500 based here, is a headquarters city. We have all of the finance, legal, management and administrative skill here Amazon needs.

We also have the one element critical to success: Calgarians want this. From the more than 100 CEOs who wrote letters of support, to the 1,400 people who joined an online community to brainstorm elevator pitches and other marketing ideas, it’s been a team effort.

We said from the outset that Calgary was in this to win it. We meant it. We’re not saying we’d fight a bear … but we totally would.

Mary Moran is President and Chief Executive Officer of Calgary Economic Development.


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The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.

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