In Marketplace Commentary

Hey Amazon! Take a look at Milwaukee! (PHOTO: Flickr/Robert Scoble)

Hey Amazon, you should choose Milwaukee!

Amazon's announcement that it is building a second corporate headquarters (HQ2) has created a mad dash from cities vying to land the Seattle-based online retailer. While there are many great urban destinations for Amazon, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, would be the perfect fit.

Amazon has set clear parameters for the proposed HQ2: a North American metropolitan city, with one million people in its metro area, and well-connected to transit – all boxes that Milwaukee easily checks.

We deserve a close look by Amazon.

Milwaukee has top-tier sports and entertainment, a booming Downtown, one of the top public university systems in the country and a premiere city for arts and culture per capita. Additionally, Milwaukee's is one of the more affordable big cities in the Midwest – the cost of living is almost 33 percent less than Chicago and Minneapolis – and the Milwaukee region ranks 9th in corporate headquarters per capita – ahead of cities like Charlotte, Dallas, Denver and Seattle.

Yet, the national media and corporate America have yet to realize Milwaukee's strength and palpable potential. In a recent CNBC article, Grand Rapids, Raleigh and Richmond were cited as potential places that match Amazon's wish list; Milwaukee was not but should be. There are 14 Fortune 500 companies already in the Milwaukee area, many of which have been around for decades.

Additionally, Amazon already has a relationship with Wisconsin having chosen it for one of its fulfillment centers. We have been able to attract and retain corporations because Milwaukee is uniquely qualified to fill the needs of any company looking for entertainment, culture and top talent while also having a reasonable cost of living.

That isn't to say Milwaukee isn't without its own set of challenges. Milwaukee's job and population growth over the past 10 years has been sluggish as it continues to rebound from the Great Recession. Our airport isn't a major hub and we aren't exactly known for tech or entrepreneurship, ranking last in start-up business activity for the past two years. Finally, the winner of the Amazon sweepstakes will need to provide hefty financial incentives, something the city and state might not be in a position to offer after the $3 billion used to lure Foxconn.

But every city will have its challenges. What Milwaukee does have is the final, but most important guideline that Amazon requested: a business climate that fosters growth and innovation. While Milwaukee may be perceived as an old manufacturing city, I have seen first-hand the energy and vision that the next generation of leaders will bring. For a company that always takes the long view, constantly on the cutting edge and looking to invest in the next big thing, Amazon needs to just come to Milwaukee and meet with its young leaders to see the great things that are in store for this great city.

Amazon projects HQ2 to create over $40 billion of direct and indirect economic development while also creating 50,000 jobs at an average salary of $100,000. This is the kind of game changing project that would not only vault Milwaukee into a tier 1 city, but boost it into the 21st century. I am thrilled that the mayor has announced that we will pursue HQ2, and I hope that the rest of the community will rally around this opportunity to show Amazon that Milwaukee should be their choice for the second headquarters.

Alex Lasry is a Senior Vice President with the Milwaukee Bucks.


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