Detroit Regional Chamber > Detroit Policy Conference > Amazon HQ2: Collaboration Drives Detroit’s Approach to ‘Super Bowl of Economic Development Projects’

Amazon HQ2: Collaboration Drives Detroit’s Approach to ‘Super Bowl of Economic Development Projects’

March 1, 2018

By all accounts, the mammoth regional undertaking to best position Detroit as the next location for Amazon’s HQ2 was a major win in terms of setting aside differences and working together toward one common goal. In the end, however, it wasn’t the region’s collaborative spirit that kept the city off of Amazon’s list of finalists, but rather Detroit’s ability to attract talent at the scale necessary and the area’s long-term commitment to mass transit.

That was a key discussion point during the session “The Amazon Bid: Collaborating to Market Detroit.” Panelists included: City of Detroit Senior Policy Advisor Basil Cherian, Quicken Loans Family of Companies Vice President of Government Affairs Jared Fleisher, Assistant Wayne County Executive Khalil Rahal, and Detroit Regional Chamber Vice President of Business Attraction Justin Robinson. The panel was moderated by Detroit Free Press Business Columnist John Gallagher.

Within days of the internet giant’s announcement that they would begin evaluating locations for HQ2 across the United States and Canada, Detroit formed an unprecedented, binational, 60-member bid committee, comprising of regional leaders from across the public, private, and philanthropic sectors, to create a proposal that would best articulate the opportunity and business case for the Detroit region. Fueled by the prospect of landing what many economic developers would call the “Super Bowl of projects,” the regional effort offered several lessons learned for future projects of similar size and notoriety.

Key takeaways:

  • Stakeholders recognized that winning Amazon HQ2 demanded a non-traditional approach to economic development and that bringing a variety of voices to the table would be crucial to the process.
  • Serving as the overall project manager, Boston Consulting Group divided the committee across 10 different workstreams. Each member had a role and responsibility to play in those workstreams, from gathering demographic data and research, to articulating the importance of certain regional assets, or designing and packaging the proposal for maximum visual effect.
  • An immeasurable amount of work went into the proposal. Committee members spent entire days at Bedrock offices debating over strategy and format.
  • Committee members weren’t shy and there were disagreements, but everyone understood the stakes and that winning the project would be a transformational economic catalyst.
  • Despite this, the Amazon proposal wasn’t just a futile exercise. The data, narratives, and structure for collaboration that was created will help better market the region to global investors and help drive future economic development projects.

This session was sponsored by Quicken Loans Family of Companies.