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Denver won lots of free publicity despite losing Amazon HQ2 race

Nearly 3,000 articles written about Denver
Posted: 6:05 PM, Nov 13, 2018
Updated: 2018-11-14 11:01:13-05

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DENVER — After a year of hype and speculation, Amazon picked two locations for its second headquarters, and none of them are Denver.

The world's largest online retailer announced plans to split its second home between Long Island City, New York and Northern Virginia.

Denver had been in the running with a dozen of other major metropolitan areas.

Opinions mixed on Denver losing bid

"What it's done to Seattle, I don't really want to see that happen to Denver," said Denver resident Logan Tyler, who was glad to see Amazon take its 50,000 jobs elsewhere. "It's already horrible. I-25 is backed up at like 2 p.m."

"It's kind of a bummer," said another Denver resident Mel Hayes. "It would have brought some employment opportunities for folks in Denver."

Sam Bailey, vice president of Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., spearheaded Denver's 14-month long bid for Amazon's second headquarters. He said even though Denver lost the race, the city still won big in terms of free publicity and collaboration among organizations.

Bailey said nearly 3,000 articles were written about Denver during the Amazon bid process, earning an estimated 3.3 billion in media impressions across the country.

"We couldn't pay for that if we were doing it on any other day," he said. "It provided validation for other companies to continue to look at Metro Denver and Colorado."

What about the incentives?

Bailey said Colorado's incentives package didn't even come close to what the East Coast cities were willing to tangle to lure Amazon.

"The incentives on the East Coast were extraordinary in nature," said Bailey.

New York City is offering $1.5 billion, and Virginia $573 million in incentives.

"About $74,000 per job were offered by New York officials. In Colorado we don't play that way," explained Bailey.

Amazon's HQ2 all a marketing ploy

Darrin Duber-Smith is a marketing professor at Metro State University and has been following the Amazon bid closely. He said the decision came down to three things: talent pool, density, and proximity to universities. Three things he said where Denver gets beat.

"We are less than 3 percent unemployment here, so how are you going to get workers to quit their jobs and work for Amazon?" he said. "Northern Virginia has the density of population; it has a density of universities, so you're churning out talent every single year."

There's no question about it. Amazon's HQ2 process played out like a reality TV show as cities and states fought to win the honor of landing the retailers second home.

But was it all a genius marketing ploy to get the best tax break possible?

Duber-Smith argues, yes.

"I think it was kind of a false hope from the beginning," he said. "The whole idea is you get your best deal by pitting competitors against each other. I thought it was a stroke of genius."

He believes this likely won't be the end of the saga, either.

"As we grow, this could be a location for a lot of secondary or primary corporate headquarters, but we're not there yet, " said Duber-Smith.