A handful of cities in Canada and the U.S. are burning the proverbial midnight oil these days, preparing a business ‘pitch’ like no other. It’s the result of what can only be described as Amazon Fever, or to be more precise Greed run amok.
The giant of online retailing occupies a huge piece of real estate in the Seattle area, and they’re looking for a second home of comparable size. They’re calling it HQ2 and they’re looking at cities that meet certain specifications. In return for lucrative incentives, the little mail order shop that was started by Jeff Bezos is promising 50,000 jobs, and an investment of $5 billion – that’s billion with a B. That’s a mind-boggling scenario for any government looking to grow its economy, and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister is keen to pursue the dream, using the same slogan that was popular for selling lottery tickets for a long time – “Ya can’t win it, if you’re not in it!”
Pallister has joined hands with the other Brian, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman. From now until mid-October, the brightest minds in both the public and private sector in Manitoba will be working their tails off on this pitch. Wow! How I wish my hometown had a chance, but they really don’t. Amazon is looking for a city of at least a million people, and Winnipeg is well short of that mark. So are Halifax and Ottawa, but they’re also preparing pitches.
Winnipeg is a great place to raise a family, and the economy is doing relatively well, compared to similar places elsewhere. You have to seriously wonder if all this activity is worth it.
Who knows what the future holds when it comes to retailing. Did you notice that Toys’R’Us which used to be hugely successful is now in Chapter 11? What about Target? They have a bunch of empty buildings across Canada. The revolution in retail is a total crapshoot, and the folks in Seattle are the ones loading the dice.
I’m Roger Currie