Metro Atlanta leaders react to Amazon choosing region for HQ2 shortlist
By Maggie Lee
Metro Atlanta’s civic, business and elected leadership were among those who on Thursday expressed some strong reactions after learning Thursday morning that Amazon had included the region in its short list of 20 regions where the company’s second headquarters would be located.
- Gov. Nathan Deal: “We are excited to learn that Atlanta has been included on Amazon’s short list. This has been a cooperative effort by the entire region, and we truly believe that Metro Atlanta has the talent, transit and logistics that provides the best location for Amazon’s second headquarters. We look forward to the next steps, and making sure our region remains at the top of the list.”
- Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary: “I’m very happy about that because that includes us. As a matter of fact, I received feedback from different areas of the economic development department in Georgia, and they were glad we were in it because we brought a tremendous amount of attention to Georgia because were included in the metro Atlanta bid and submitted our own direct bid and did the geofencing. I’m glad Stonecrest is part of this effort.”
- Donnell Suggs, sports editor and columnist, Houston Home Journal, in Perry: “Amazon’s shortlist reminds me of road to 1996 Summer Olympic bid for Atlanta and that’s a good thing for the city. … The potential impact of an Amazon headquarters … in Atlanta can only be compared to what the Olympics did for metro and south Atlanta some 20-plus years ago. The billion dollar company, world famous name, subsequent branding and massive job possibilities are exactly what an international city the likes of Atlanta (and a first term mayor like Keisha Lance Bottoms) can use to further its claim to be the southern equivalent to New York City, Paris, London, etc.”
- Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms held a press conference about several topics Thursday morning, including Amazon. She started her prepared remarks by thanking fellow elected leaders and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Below is a transcript of most of her prepared remarks plus two of the several questions she answered:
“This is truly a collaborative effort and I believe our success is a direct result of our teamwork and our willingness to focus on results. The city worked very closely with the state to develop a competitive bid that represents our strengths.
Atlanta is the economic center of the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the country and the eighth largest economy.
We have leading universities including the Atlanta University Center, now Emory University and also The Georgia Institute of Technology, which as we know is producing some of the nation’s and the world’s leading young scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Our workforce is highly educated and nimble and has an enormous amount of experience in working with established tech sector companies.
The Atlanta region is home to financial technology and cybersecurity companies. Our startup ecosystem is growing and thriving and continuing to support entrepreneurs throughout our economy.
I also want to thank the visionary leadership of so many of our past mayors who have made it possible for us to have one of the largest transit systems … and that is MARTA. And we also know that we are at the beginning of an expansion of MARTA, a historic expansion of MARTA, thanks to the overwhelming support of the sales tax referendum, which will generate $2.6 billion dollars over the next forty years.
We are excited for the potential regional collaboration to expand our transit system and know that it will help us attract even more companies to the area.
And also we can’t stand here today and not to mention Hartsfield-Jackson international airport, the worlds busiest and most efficient passenger airport. Because of its connectivity, 80 percent of the nation’s GDP is within two hours of Atlanta. It offers direct flights to so many flights across the country, including the West Coast and also to international cities across Europe, Asia and Africa. We also know Atlanta is the hub of major interstate highways and railroad networks. And so many of these things that are transit-oriented really speak to the high quality of life that we’re able to have in the metro area at such a relatively low cost.
Also we can’t stand here and not mention our beautiful tree canopy in the city and also the culture that our city has to offer to so many people looking to move to the region.
So, I’m so very excited to move forward to the next phase of this process and I look forward to continuing to work with Gov. Deal, [State Department of Economic Development]Commissioner [Pat] Wilson and all of our stakeholders to make sure that Atlanta puts forward the strongest, most competitive bid possible.
(Question from a reporter:) What is your message to taxpayers who say there should be transparency in what the state is offering in terms of tax breaks or other incentives?
KLB: I think that those details will be forthcoming. I think that anytime that we’re looking to attract, whether it be a company, whether it be the Super Bowl, that there are things that we have to keep close to continue to make sure that we are competitive.
But the governor has made it very clear that anything that needs to be improved on on behalf of the state will be done in a special session and there will be ample opportunity for the public and lawmakers to weigh in on that.
(Question from reporter:) There are concerns about Amazon and affordability, potentially making the affordability problem worse. What’s your response to those concerns?
KLB: I think when you look at Amazon and you look about the number of small businesses that Amazon supports and you think about Amazon and you think about the layers of people who come to work for Amazon, its not just people who will be corporate executives, but you’ll have warehouses have you’ll have administrative staff so I think that there are layers of people who will have an opportunity to be a part of this amazing company
Our affordability issue in Atlanta is not an issue related to Amazon or any of our other Fortune 500 companies. It’s an issue that we are facing in the city and that many cities are facing across the country that we have to make sure that as our city grows and our city prospers that we remain a city that is a city for everyone regardless of your income.
That’s the reason I talked so much about affordability during the course of this this campaign
That’s the reason … on Tuesday that I asked that legislation be introduced to create a commission to look at affordability and it’s top of mind. And the interesting thing about this affordability conversation: it’s not just a conversation that people are interested in who are seeking to live in the city of Atlanta, but our companies are worried about it.
We have businesses at the airport who are concerned about affordability because they have to have people who live in the city who have the ability to get to and from work.
And so it’s top of mind for so many people and I think its something that in the Atlanta Way we can truly be a model. But that’s an issue that we are grappling w as a city and I think that any time you talk about bringing jobs to a city, I think it will go a long way to help address many of the issues we’re experiencing.
Her entire press conference, including more Q and A on Amazon is available on Twitter