By Howard Ecker
With all the excitement and speculation surrounding which city Amazon will choose for its second headquarters, I really have to pause to think of all the ramifications, both good and bad, that will result from the decision.
The good part is, it will create more jobs than anyone can anticipate. Not only will the decision obviously create jobs specifically at Amazon, but think about all jobs needed to service those people who work there — at restaurants, stores, etc. The neighborhood around the headquarters will benefit greatly too. Much, much greater than the 50,000 they talk about.
However, the most important good that will come out of the new location will be Amazon’s ability to completely change, hopefully for the better, a city or an area within a city. Take for example Chicago, where I’ve lived my whole life. Relocating Amazon to the West Loop, where all the tech activity is occurring, would on the surface be something logical.
That said, if Amazon would consider a different neighborhood, one serviced by public transportation, their presence would completely alter the complexion of the area. And that would be great. Think Jefferson Park, Pilsen, maybe the old steelworks areas on the South Side. It’s my opinion that a move to one of these areas would result in a massive positive effect. Most importantly, a positive for the people who currently live there. Housing would improve, and inherently the schools and public transportation would be forced to improve.
Amazon could take an area struggling with its identity, or one that has lost its identity, and create a new baby out of a dead corpse.
The effect it would have would be more than uplifting. It would be life changing. Some of the necessary infrastructure is there in these neighborhoods already, but that would be improved as well. And that idea, the social change that could come about, should serve as a motivating factor.
As an example, Detroit was long known as a factory city. A company town, if you will. Some of those companies are still there. A lot of the auto industry has moved to other states or countries, but it was known for that for generations.
And now, Amazon’s decision represents a real opportunity. If they go to an area like Detroit or the South Side of Chicago and create something positive, the city would quickly see all the ancillary benefits that come with it.
Not that they’re ailing neighborhoods, but they’re in need of a spark. The people, the housing, the culture would all be lifted up, very similar to what General Motors did for Detroit. Amazon could take an area struggling with its identity, or one that has lost its identity, and create a new baby out of a dead corpse.
If you look back in history, we had cities, or areas within cities, that were actually named after companies. Like Pullman here in Chicago. And cities that were transformed by the influential companies that called them home — SC Johnson in Racine, Caterpillar in Peoria and Kohler in Wisconsin to name a few.
Honestly, that’s the prospect that Amazon has in front of them — to be a leader in social reform and, not just in the economy, but in the entire fabric of the city, wherever they choose. And I sincerely hope this happens.