Editor’s note: Seattle-based e-commerce pioneer Amazon.com earlier this month issued a request for proposals to host its new, $5 billion second headquarters, dubbed HQ2. As MiBiz previously reported, local officials in West Michigan have thrown their hats into the ring in pursuing the massive economic development project. In this guest column, Adtegrity Inc. CEO Scott Brew spells out his view of why Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos should consider locating the project in Grand Rapids.
Greetings from beautiful Grand Rapids, Michigan!
As one digital space CEO to another, I am writing to share one of the best decisions I ever made with regard to the health and success of my business. I share this insight in hopes that it might help Amazon attain the next level of success on its continuing march toward its fullest evolution.
Of course, it seems that a lot of folks are writing you letters these days.
Ever since you announced Amazon’s search for the home of its much anticipated HQ2, there has been no shortage of pleas for your attention. And while the major metropolitan hubs have had the luxury of feigning apathy, sure that their names will make the short list, it has been the calls from the “second-tier” targets that have been of interest to me.
Eager to show their competitiveness, they have generally begun with a litany of economic advantages and differentiators, but often seem to pivot toward iterations of economic struggles and poor civic planning that could be remedied, seemingly, if only Amazon would come to town.
This is not that type of letter.
You see, I do not believe Grand Rapids needs Amazon.
But I do believe that Amazon needs Grand Rapids.
Twenty years ago, I realized that there was an unaddressed opportunity in the burgeoning digital space and I left the comfort of my more traditional career path to focus on building something that others couldn’t yet fathom.
Looking back, I understand that one of the best decisions I made in that process was choosing the location of my company’s headquarters. In fact, I’d say that the selection of Grand Rapids — and giving myself access to the people and talent of this wonderful city — was more of a blessing than I could possibly have understood at the time.
I am continually amazed by the degree to which this city seems to simultaneously draw from, reflect and amplify the energy of its people. Perhaps nowhere else is the almost cliché concept of “Midwestern values” more palpable. Outgoing, positive and friendly, Grand Rapidians exude a “can do” spirit and embrace of life that is both empowering and contagious.
Living and raising a family among these unique people has convinced me of the power of a community to will itself toward greatness. I have watched this synergistic energy guide and lift my business, the lives and destinies of so many I have come to care for, and the arc overall of the city itself.
And the Grand Rapids area only continues to grow and thrive.
Our business, community and cultural leaders are among the most collaborative you’ll ever see in a mid-sized city. As a community, we are taking early, vital steps to bridge the opportunity gap that so many urban communities face. Our schools are in the midst of a major transformation plan that is already showing incredible results. We have research, medical, manufacturing, technology and education sectors that are rapidly expanding.
In any competition (in this case, for your attention), recognition and awards are often the measure of success. And, while the people of Grand Rapids, Michigan rarely seek this kind of outward acclaim, there are times when a growing din of applause from objective observers simply cannot be ignored.
In the last year, Grand Rapids has seen an almost embarrassment of riches when it comes to those lists that compare cities on any number of bases. Although most city residents would balk at my using these recognitions as boasting points in this open and public communication, I believe that they stand as the appropriate testament to help prove my point to you — that you could make no better choice for the future of your own company than to select Grand Rapids as the home of your new corporate headquarters:
Grand Rapids is consistently at or near the top of Forbes’ annual list of Best Places to Raise a Family, taking the No. 1 position just this year.
This year, U.S. News & World Report listed Grand Rapids among the 20 Best Places to Live in America, citing (in addition to other factors) an exceptional quality of life, a burgeoning job market and net migration, a “booming” health care industry and “incredibly active” neighborhood associations.
Also this year, Matador Network, a social network for travelers, named Grand Rapids one of the Best College Towns in America.
In July, Headlight Data named Grand Rapids the Fastest Growing Large Metro Economy of 2016.
Outside Magazine named Grand Rapids as one of the 25 Best Towns of 2017 and The Best River Town in America, concluding: “To have quality rafting, kayaking, fishing in an urban area, having it running right through downtown is not something many cities have.”
In a true testament to the core values of our citizenry, Expedia named Grand Rapids as “One of 20 of the Greenest Cities in the Nation.”
In summing up, Jeff, my own plea to you is NOT that you ride into Grand Rapids as a savior, delivering a new chance to a deserving city — but rather that you take a moment and consider bringing your corporate headquarters here to give your well-documented vision for the company’s future the best possible chance of becoming a reality.
To this end, I would very much welcome hosting you in a visit. I would be thrilled to introduce you to many of the city’s corporate and civic leaders and to have you come spend time at our own corporate headquarters, where you could meet a representative sample of the people that make Grand Rapids the finest place in the country to grow a forward-leaning business.
We could also, of course, avail ourselves in any number of the countless indie breweries that have resulted in perhaps our greatest honor, being named the Nation’s Best Beer Scene by USA Today!
Thank you in advance for your consideration, and I Iook forward to your visit.
Very best regards,
For almost two decades, digital marketing and advertising firm Adtegrity Inc. of Grand Rapids has helped mid-market brands and agencies to target local audiences through a variety of media platforms.