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A Bunch Of Thoughts… Minneapolis And Amazon HQ2


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NOTE: over the past months I had started writing a bunch of posts relating to Amazon HQ2 and did not finish any of them. Most of the time I was frustrated. I’ve clearly been vocal be it on the podcast or quotes in local news stories. All of those are linked below. As I edit this I know I ramble a bit and left some details out but these are the highlights of what I have been thinking about…

What do we do about HQ2

When news first broke about Amazon searching for a location to grow a 2nd HQ’s I became immediately interested. My thought was that this is a once in a career… maybe lifetime (so far for sure) opportunity to change the landscape of a community, city and region.

The first thought I had was there are three options the region had:

- Do nothing

- Be aggressive

- Sell your soul

Do nothing was not an option for me.

I was slightly more than “be aggressive” and not anywhere near “sell your soul”.

No way we let this opportunity to go by. The region needed to make a very strong bid, offer reasonable incentives and really go after this.

Restrained Bid

And then we read the now infamous quote from Governor Dayton saying the state would be giving a “restrained bid”.

I read that and was upset. I swore out loud.

Restrained??? Why bother.

We learned that Governor Dayton and then Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges reached out to the CEO’s of Target and Best Buy. To do what… get their permission to do their job? Did our elected officials reach out to other companies years ago when Minneapolis gave Target tax breaks to build their new HQ’s in Downtown?

And lets not forget the major taxpayer donation made to US Bank Stadium.

A reminder… I am a “homer”. I want to support the companies already here and the startups that want to grow.

I also want to grow our region, career opportunities and attract people to the area.

Amazon is a growing entity. We can argue if that is for better or worse. But it will grow whether it is here or not. I suggest it would be better to have it here.

Recruiting impact

Yes, Amazon choosing Minneapolis would have put a lot of pressure on companies already here. And Amazon too. News flash… this will happen wherever they end up.

The interesting thing is that the startup and tech company reaction to the potential was different than the Fortune 500 reaction. Those in the tech space said that for the first few years it would be a drag on growth. But the long term gain of growing the MSP tech scene was a positive. That more people would want to move here and be part of a larger scene and the ripple effect of Amazon would help too.

Let’s also remember that not everyone wants to work at Amazon and most would not work at Amazon forever. The cross pollination of ideas would be great for the local tech scene.

Dang… I almost forgot to mention that of course Amazon already has a tech presence in the North Loop of Downtown Minneapolis and has recently announced it is growing the team again. This has had a small, but noticeable impact on some skill sets in town.

Unified pitch

One good thing about all this… it got a number of business, political and civic leaders to work together. It was a great exercise in team work. Sure, I would have preferred things were not so secretive but I get why they did what they did.

Why Amazon did not name Minneapolis/St Paul a Top 20 Finalist

It came out last week that the reason Amazon did not move Minneapolis on in the process is their concern about being able to hire a lot of people in a short amount of time. That’s fair. That would be my concern too.

But… my quote from Sunday in the Minneapolis StarTribune, Hiring challenge knocked Twin Cities off Amazon's list:

When the question of whether recruiting could be a particular regional challenge was put to Paul DeBettignies, a high-profile recruiter in Minneapolis for technology companies, he simply rejected the whole premise.

“I think it would be easier — this is not being a homer by the way — it would be easier to recruit a sufficient number of people here compared to those other towns” on Amazon’s list of finalists, he said.

The trade-off between the quality of the career opportunity and the cost of living remains favorable for the Twin Cities, compared to places like Seattle. He shared data provided earlier this year by LinkedIn that showed the flow of people identifying themselves as technology workers has reversed itself from a few years ago.

According to LinkedIn numbers, over the previous year about 6,900 people with technology skills did leave the Twin Cities — but 7,500 arrived here from somewhere else. “Six hundred, that’s notable,” DeBettignies said. “That’s not like a hundred.”

There is no freaking way it is harder to accomplish a lot of hires in a short amount of time in Minneapolis/St Paul than than Nashville, Columbus and Denver.

I’ll just leave it at that.

Why I want to be on a “cool kids” list

To be clear… I did not think Amazon would end up here. I do think we are an attractive community for a bunch of different reasons and for a lot of companies. Being on the Amazon list lends credibility to a region and gives other companies looking for a HQ’s or a regional office a place to start doing their research. Not being on that list sucks.

What’s next… growing our tech scene

Minnesota IT Jobs, MInneapolis St Paul Tech Migration

Above is a photo of the data shared by LinkedIn at Tech Cities 2018.

Whether Amazon came here or not we need to do a better job of recruiting to Minneapolis and St Paul. As individuals, companies and a community we need to spread the word about: the good things going on here, the stability of the community, the high rankings in surveys, the affordable lifestyle and the variety of career opportunities.

Chad Halvorson, CEO at When I Work, had a tag line I think that is in DocuMNtary… “Start up, settle down”. We are a rare region that has both startups and Fortune 500 companies and whether you want one, the other or a mix of both you can do that here.

We need to shake loose from the affliction I call, “Midwest passive-aggressive, I don’t like to promote myself’. It’s bullshit and it is not serving us well. And while I don’t want to become Bay Area like with bravado and arrogance… I do want more of us to more frequently and more loudly tell the story of Minneapolis and St Paul, Minnesota and the Midwest.

Whew…

That’s it. After many half-written rants I finally got some of this out of my head. If any of it resonates with you send me an email and let’s keep the conversation going.

And a call to action for you on promoting MSP… write a blot post, post an article on LinkedIn, promote conferences and events on Twitter, recruit your college roommate, go to the Make IT MSP website and share some content and share DocuMNtary with your peers and colleagues in other cities.

While I (we) can stomp my (our) feet and feel overlooked (and some of it is justified) it is up to us to change the perception of Minneapolis and St Paul.

Thanks for listening.


Notes: articles and podcasts where I have previously been talking about this:

Minnesota leaders will bid for Amazon’s second HQ, but what will they offer? – MSP Business Journal 9/7/17

Gov. Dayton's call for 'restrained' bid for Amazon HQ draws protests -  Minneapolis StarTribune 9/14/17

Could Amazon steal the Twin Cities' top talent? – Minneapolis StarTribune 9/23/17

MSP On Deck podcast episodes: #6, 9, #15 & #18


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