Birmingham benefits from the process of pursuing Amazon HQ2

Birmingham benefits from the process of pursuing Amazon HQ2
Birmingham officials said the pursuit of Amazon HQ2 built something more than giant boxes in the Magic City. (file)

Birmingham didn’t win’s second corporate headquarters, but that doesn’t mean the metro area lost.

From elected officials to economic developers, all agree that much was gained by pursuing Amazon HQ2.

“Throughout the recruitment of Amazon, there was great value in the process we used in providing information the company needed to consider Birmingham,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said. “Those efforts will be applied to future projects that are sure to come along.”

Birmingham’s “Bring A to B” campaign to lure Amazon’s second headquarters used giant Amazon Dash buttons and packages to gain national attention. (file)

The approach crossed all boundaries.

“The city of Birmingham, Jefferson County and the entire state of Alabama experienced tremendous value as part of this process,” said Rick Davis, senior vice president of Economic Development at the Birmingham Business Alliance. “There was a true collaborative spirit on local, state and regulatory levels.”

Patrick Murphy, vice president of business, sales and economic development at Alabama Power, said the Amazon recruitment revealed many things.

“Through the process we identified workforce opportunities, transportation opportunities and some creative real estate opportunities that will benefit us in future recruitment efforts,” Murphy said.

Davis said preparing Birmingham’s proposal required input across a wide section of the community.

“We felt our proposal was comprehensive and had a clear-cut vision set for Amazon in terms of what we could offer regarding both workforce and all the other issues important to the company — and how we could grow together,” Davis said. “We are extremely proud of Birmingham’s effort as we compete for current and future economic development opportunities.”

Amazon’s current headquarters in Seattle. (Daniel Berman/Bloomberg)

Those future opportunities could come from Amazon itself.

“Through this process we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation,” said Holly Sullivan of Amazon Public Policy.

The public nature of Amazon’s request for proposals from communities created very public displays for those looking to get the online retailer’s attention.

Birmingham’s approach, led by Big Communications, captured attention nationally.

The campaign used giant displays of Amazon boxes throughout the metro area that encouraged people to take pictures with the hashtag #BringAtoB and let Amazon know of the great things about Birmingham.

Giant versions of Amazon’s Dash buttons send tweets about Birmingham’s attributes with the #BringAtoB hashtag when pressed. (contributed)

That was followed by giant Amazon Dash buttons like those used to automatically reorder products through the online site. In this case, the giant Dash buttons tweeted out messages extolling the virtues of Birmingham and tagging Amazon’s official Twitter account.

It was all brought together with a homepage,

Between Sept. 25 and Oct. 31, the campaign earned more than 733 million media impressions that included everything from traditional media coverage to social media shares.

While compiling the Amazon proposal, a number of initiatives came together, including a focus on the need for available property for economic development.

The giant Amazon boxes around Birmingham were not only favorite spots for selfies, but they spurred the community to support Birmingham’s efforts to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to the city. (contributed)

“The recently announced agreement between Birmingham, U.S. Steel and Barber Motorsports will result in a new industrial park off Barber Parkway,” Woodfin said. “The park, which will focus on high-tech companies, is an example of partnerships that help make Birmingham the best place to locate a new business.”

Woodfin predicted the collaborations that were strengthened during the Amazon recruitment will continue to lure future projects.

“Birmingham, Jefferson County and the state of Alabama will continue to recruit workforce training, site development and other programs tailored to the needs of new businesses looking at Birmingham and the region,” he said.

As for the site? It’s already looking forward.

HQ3? the site asks on its Instagram account. “Okay, but we’re still thinking ahead. Pick up the phone and call us when you’re ready for your next pick @amazon. ☎️ #bringatob”

A post shared by BringAtoB (@bringatob) on

Murphy said that illustrates how the Amazon recruitment took a community that was often too self-critical to one that is now open to bold thinking and possibilities.

“It got us collectively asking, ‘Why not?’,” he said. “That can only be good going forward.”

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