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Commentary By Aaron M. Renn

The Branding Benefits of Being an Amazon Finalist

When Amazon’s list of 20 cities that will move forward was announced, I noted that cities like Indianapolis and Columbus win just from making the cut. You could also add Nashville and Raleigh to that list.

I’m just following up with some brief evidence of how this played out. First, the New York Times coverage of the Amazon cut list selection led with an image of downtown Indianapolis and also featured a large picture of Columbus, Ohio.

Image of Columbus used in the NYT (by Andrew Spear)

The Wall Street Journal’s coverage included this paragraph:

“Three metropolitan Washington, D.C., sites—including the city itself—made the cut, while Toronto was the only non-U.S. city on the list. Some surprise candidates included Columbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis.”

The idea that these cities were a surprise could in one sense be seen as a negative. But being put on this list will likely cause writers like the author of this piece to go “Huh?” and potentially start recalibrating their impressions of those cities.

The NYT and WSJ are the flagship national print media. But the finalist cities got a mention in pretty much every publication of note. That’s a nice blast of earned media.

However, now the potential challenges begin. Round one was reasonable cost. Now cities will be investing a lot more money and civic leadership time and attention on the bid. 19 sites will lose out. There may be some future PR wins to be head, but the cost/benefit becomes a factor to consider.

Also, being in contention for Amazon probably complicates attempts to bid on other facilities. Apple is looking for a new location. I happen to think these smaller cities would be much better suited to an Apple tech support center than HQ2. But can they pursue both at the same time credibly? (If I were one of these smaller cities, I might actually tell Apple that I’d drop out of the HQ2 competition if Apple picked me).

And at the end of the day this is mostly just PR for now. If I were a losing city, I would not be engaging in endless self-flagellation about it. The places weren’t on the 20 city list were long shots at best (just like some that did make it). The PR coup of making the first cut would have been nice, but not getting it isn’t the end of the world.

This piece appeared on NewGeography (originally at Urbanophile)


Aaron M. Renn is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor at City Journal. Follow him on Twitter here.

This piece originally appeared in NewGeography