Amazon, come to Boston
America’s best company should build HQ2 in America’s best city
Dear Jeff Bezos,
Build it in Boston. Your second corporate headquarters, which you intend to be a “full equal” to Amazon’s home in Seattle, belongs in the Athens of America. I know there’s competition – Vancouver, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Denver, to name just a few – but Boston is best for three reasons: talent, research and development, and infrastructure.
You have said you want to hire 50,000 high-skilled workers for the new headquarters. Those programmers, product managers, digital marketers and data scientists live right here in Massachusetts: Our tech sector includes 180,000 employees with an estimated output of $65 billion.
They are the best the world has to offer: 46 percent of incoming college freshmen are from outside the state, and Boston is the third most popular destination for international students. Drawn by Harvard, MIT, and the eight other universities here that are ranked in the nation’s top 100, these students earn masters and doctorate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics at a higher rate than any other state. And they stay put after graduating: Boston has the highest proportion of young adults of any city in the country, with 35 percent of its population between the ages of 20 and 34.
Think about that, Mr. Bezos: Without even counting the other 48 colleges and universities in Greater Boston – much less the 75 others in Massachusetts but outside the metropolitan area – there is more impactful research and development being done here than anywhere else.
Moreover, as you well know, innovation is an emergent property of networks, not a linear function. The dense clustering of elite research centers – including 14 Boston-area teaching hospitals whose impact reverberates far beyond medicine – has created an autocatalytic engine of ideas: Massachusetts ranks first in patent growth per capita, is a top destination for federal research and development funding, and is a leader in eight of the 11 sectors used to define the innovation economy, including advanced materials, business services, and software and communications services. Venture capital is pouring into Greater Boston because the ideas and the talent are here.
So, too, is the space. Widett Circle, currently used for wholesale food logistics, is a vast and centrally located site that has been primed for ambitious redevelopment since the Olympics bid. Mayor Marty Walsh has been vocally seeking to partner with the private sector to transform it; both he and Gov. Charlie Baker are certain to work with you to leverage your $5 billion in capital expenditures, as they did for General Electric’s relocation.
The 19 acres at Widett Circle could support the 8 million square feet you require. If you want to extend farther, adjacent sites are under-developed, too. Widett Circle could be the beginning of a series of brand new, walkable neighborhoods that deck over MBTA tracks all the way into Fort Point.
From your headquarters in Boston’s new center of gravity, you would be an eight-minute drive to Logan International Airport, which is closer to its downtown than any major airport in the United States. It has nonstop service to more than 75 domestic locations, including Seattle, and to more than 50 international locations, including European capitals that are a long haul from the West Coast. Indeed, with headquarters on both coasts, Amazon’s executives can manage transcontinental and international operations with far less travel and time-zone friction than currently.Airport operator Massport, moreover, is emblematic of the increasingly productive relationship between state and local officials in Boston. Like all CEOs, I know you are worried about the uncertainty that President Donald Trump injects into the business climate. Here in Massachusetts, Republicans and Democrats have proven that they can work together to provide stable, progressive government. We have tackled intractable problems like health care and taken on generational investments like the Big Dig.
Boston is the best city in America, Mr. Bezos. Come make it even better.