Editor’s note: Dr. Mike Walden is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor and Extension Economist in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University who teaches and writes on personal finance, economic outlook and public policy. WRAL TechWire reached out to Dr. Walden for his reaction to Thursday morning’s announcement by Amazon that Raleigh made its list of 20 finalists for the huge Amazon HQ2 project.

Mike Walden

RALEIGH – I am impressed Raleigh made the list of 20 finalists.  Even if Raleigh isn’t chosen, making this list is a major honor for the region, and one which should make for great advertising in attracting other future companies.

I see two categories in the list – big regions like NY, Boston, LA, etc, and medium sized regions – including Austin, Columbus, Nashville, Pittsburgh, and Raleigh.  The benefit of the first list is the regions are big, have more existing talent, most have mass transit, and all have an international reputation.
I also found it interesting that three of the finalists are in greater DC – Northern Virginia, Montgomery County Maryland, and Washington.  This automatically gives the DC area an advantage.


It seems to me the first decision Amazon will have to make is whether it wants a location in a large region or in one of the medium sized regions.  While – as I mentioned – the large regions have size and other attributes as pluses, in one of the medium sized regions Amazon would automatically be the biggest player, and the company could have a big say in developing infrastructure and other characteristics it wants.
Certainly each of the medium sized regions would have to rely on attracting outside talent to fulfill Amazon’s long run hiring needs.  But this would occur over time, and the fact that many medium sized regions made the top 20 list tells me this is not an issue for Amazon.


Wherever Amazon goes it will impact the local real estate market, transportation and commuting, and the entire complexion of the area.  This will more be the case for one of the medium sized regions, including Raleigh.
So those who want to keep Raleigh smaller, limit congestion, and keep a lid on real estate prices would probably not want Amazon.
But if the objective is to grow the region and state – particularly in the tech sector and with high-paying jobs – Amazon is the ticket to that.  It would be the largest private economic development project in the state’s history.