Columbus didn’t stand a chance of winning the Amazon HQ2 bid. So why bother?
The city has been catching an expanding amount of shade for its, shall we say, “resource rich” bid for Amazon's HQ2 facility. What's become clear in the aftermath of one of the biggest development whiffs ever is that Columbus didn't stand a chance of winning. Despite nauseating levels of fat and largesse in the city's 1,300-page bid, our coffers were apparently not brimming with enough compelling swag to convince Amazon to select a location I‘m certain they perceived as an OK place to slum on spring break, but not somewhere to settle down.
The silence from City Hall is understandable. You wouldn't feel much like talking either if you tried to woo the captain of the cheerleading squad, were summarily repelled, and then everybody in school got to see the bad love poem you wrote wherein you rhymed “with all of my heart” with “gentrification lark.”
And yet I refuse to believe that city officials didn't know they didn't have a chance, begging the question, “Why bother?”
It's one thing to float a bid to claim participation trophies (trust that somebody made money off of even a failed bid), but whatever they spent getting that bubble to the table wouldn't seem worth the embarrassment. Except shame is only effective if you're capable of being influenced by how bad you look. Shame only works about 10 percent of the time here. But it should totally be in play because I am ashamed of how my city behaved for this bid.
More than 200 cities lost the bid. There's no shame in losing. The shame lies in giving up time, energy, money and massive amounts of data to the largest company in the world for, at best, local gains. If this debacle were a Spades game, Columbus missed their books and they reneged, pledging cards they didn't have and playing what cards they did possess out of order. If the city is on one side of the table and residents are their partner on the other side, Columbus just ruined game night. A Spades partnership is sacred. When you cut your partner, you risk losing that partner for life. Columbus broke all three of the major Spades rules, and this is after we already swore never to play Monopoly with them again because they cheat too much.
There isn't any consensus on why Columbus would bid on something like this knowing it was likely to lose. It's a lot of effort to chalk up to, “Let's see what happens.” In my conversations, the city was playing its own version of William Tell: It was pretending to aim for the apple when it had its sights trained on a slightly lower target the whole time.