Our Editorial: Detroit gained even in losing Amazon

The Detroit News

Detroit is no longer in the running to host Amazon’s second North American headquarters, but the process of trying to woo the company and all those potential jobs was very much a worthwhile effort — and one that showcased what our modern-day city has to offer a major employer.

On Thursday, Amazon narrowed its list of contenders for the new headquarters it is calling HQ2. Amazon, based in Seattle, has created a competitive bidding process for cities throughout North America. More than 230 applied, including Detroit.

The online retail powerhouse wants to invest at least $5 billion in the “winning” city, promising to create 50,000 jobs averaging $100,000 a year.

Twenty are now in the final running, including Atlanta, Boston, Denver, LA, Chicago, Indianapolis, New York and Toronto.

While Detroit didn’t make the cut, it did make a good impression, and its creative application — partnering with Windsor, Ontario — made a positive impression.

“Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation,” Amazon said in a statement.

That should include Detroit.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan expressed his gratitude for all involved in the city’s initiative. Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert, tapped by Duggan to lead Detroit’s pitch committee, put together a solid application, and many other political and business leaders in the area got involved.

While disappointing news, as Gov. Rick Snyder acknowledged, the 242-page proposal highlighting what Detroit and Windsor could offer will surely be used a blueprint to attract other business investment to the region.

Snyder has also made it a mission of his last year in office to boost talent development in Michigan, which could help attract companies to the region.

The region’s application, submitted in October, included an impressive video selling Detroit to Amazon.

The proposal also promised:

■30-year tax breaks;

■3.2 million square feet in existing buildings and 1.3 million square feet of development projects that are underway;

■Enough vacant land and surface parking lots to accommodate another 191 million square feet of development.

The city was always a long shot, given its lack of a comprehensive regional transportation system. In addition, education attainment in Detroit is much lower than some of the other competing cities. Both are essential to attracting the young, tech workers Amazon covets.

So Detroit knows where it needs to improve. But it also is making huge strides in becoming more attractive for such projects.

As Gilbert said in a booster’s statement, “Detroit is the most exciting city in the country right now and the momentum continues to build every single day.”

Even if Detroit couldn’t convince Amazon this time around, it’s positioning itself to win future investments.