RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK – Pursuing Amazon’s HQ2 and its 50,000 jobs has been a year-long dream for not only many leaders inside and outside of politics but also thousands of people across the Triangle region who saw the massive project as a means of securing their economic futures.
In one word, HQ2 represented “opportunity.”
That’s how Doug Speight, head of the American Underground startup and entrepreneurial development hub in Durham, summed up the amazing enthusiasm that the prospect of landing HQ2 created since the Triangle was named by Amazon as one of 20 finalists for the project earlier this year.
“People see this as opportunity for better jobs, for better careers,” Speight explained on a chilly night in January at a networking event. “They see it as a path to a better future.”
So did thousands of other people who participated in WRAL TechWire and WRAL reader/viewer online polls. Many heartily endorsed the Triangle’s efforts, from local to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, to woo Amazon with land, tax breaks and other goodies.
Yet today, as has been expected, Amazon has decided to skip the Triangle and 17 other finalists to split HQ2 between the suburbs of Washington, D.C. and New York City.
So report The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. An announcement came just before 11 a.m.
The news is not a shock to anyone who has followed the story – but that doesn’t erase the hurt for those who wanted HQ2.
“I was surprised when the initial rumor of the HQ split was leaked, so the announcement was expected,” NCSU economist Dr. Michael Walden told WRAL TechWire early Tuesday. Yet he insists: “This says nothing negative about the Triangle. ”
Since the HQ2 process began, various studies have pointed out the Triangle as a viable choice for HQ2, citing housing costs, labor force, education, qualoity of life, the existence of high-tech infrastructure. And more.
Yet from the get-go Triangle leaders knew they had a huge handicap to overcome:
Lack of mass transit, which Amazon said it wanted.
“Leaders are reminded of the importance of transit,” Walden said.
Other side of the hill
Not everyone agreed with those who saw winning HQ2 as a means of further accelerating the Triangle’s emergence as one of the premier “tech towns,” a tech hub. The region is already blossoming with growth and promising companies – why add HQ2 and the related negatives:
- More traffic
- More pressure on housing
- More pressure on infrastructure, schools
- More environmental pressure
No doubt there are some people breathing easier today.
To them, the Triangle was too small absorb all that HQ2 would have meant. Even splitting the project in two would created 25,000 jobs or so in a job market where talent is already scarce and thousands of high-tech and related jobs are going unfilled with unemployment well under 4 percent.
All eyes turn to Apple
One other major project remains on which opportunity seekers cane concentrate:
The new Apple campus.
With the election over, is the door now open for both sides to close the Apple deal which could mean 10,000 jobs or more and billions in investment?
“I think Apple will still come,” Walden said. Trade war talk with China remains a challenge, he added.
Officials have said Apple has yet to say “no” to North Carolina. But the same officials were saying last week that Amazon had not said “no,” either.