Amazon’s historic request for proposals to land its proposed $5 billion headquarters made the hearts of many economic development professionals flutter.
And while the courtship jitters were there at first for Little Rock, officials lost that loving feeling after some of Amazon’s requests were more than the Arkansas city could give to a budding relationship.
“As we looked into the minimum requirements of their request for proposals, we recognized that, while we had most if not all of those things, we just didn’t have them at the level that Amazon was requesting as their minimum requirements,” said Jay Chessir, president and CEO of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Little Rock’s “breakup” with Amazon has played out in public. The region’s chamber of commerce hired a plane to fly over Seattle towing a banner that said, “Hey Amazon, it’s not you, it’s us.”
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It also touted the website lovelittlerock.org.
The internet retailer said it received 238 proposals last week from cities and regions across the continent, including Tacoma and Pierce County. Some are using the request to draw attention to their regions even if they don’t expect to win the bid.
“Then in the midst of that we realized it would be an opportunity, not only to show Amazon what we do have, but also countless other companies who might be looking for a headquarters facility or a new place to expand,” Chesshir said Monday.
The campaign uses new media and old, including that banner flying around Seattle, he said.
The chamber also took out a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post — owned by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos — that explains the city’s change of heart. Headlined “Hey Amazon, we need to talk,” it reads like a cordial breakup letter.
Amazon wants 50,000 workers, the advertisement says, “ but if we were to concentrate them here, it would be a bummer. Our lack of traffic and ease of getting around would be totally wrecked, and we can’t sacrifice that for you.”
The lovelittlerock.org website touts Little Rock’s outdoor appeal, talented workforce, affordable living, hospitality and Southern charm.
“We wanted to use creativity and humor so hopefully we would make Amazon smile,” Chesshir said. “We believe from a marketing perspective it’s the first step in what will be a long-term marketing campaign that hopefully results in lots of company locations and new jobs.”