Cities across the U.S. are vying for the chance to acquire Amazon’s second headquarters, but few are as compelling as those found in Alabama. In addition to its quintessential southern charm, “The Heart of Dixie” also meets the three criteria Amazon is looking for in a new location: an able workforce, strong schools, and adequate transportation.
Alabama has a history of leading industry trends. In 1993, Alabama snared the first Mercedes factory outside of Germany. Within the next 10 years, Toyota, Honda, and Hyundai followed suit.
Industry is still expanding rapidly in many Alabama cities. In Birmingham, for example, 75 companies within the region’s primary business sectors announced 2,014 jobs and $586,539,076 in capital investment in 2016, demonstrating confidence in the economic environment and ability to sustain growth. The same year, the city saw an increase of 1.9% in its population with a bachelor’s degree, meaning it can bolster Amazon’s high demand for full-time employees. One reason for Birmingham’s talented workforce is its school system. Six Birmingham-area high schools are ranked among the best in the country by U.S. News and World Reports. In addition to its strong workforce, a major advantage of building Amazon’s HQ2 in Alabama is the state’s right-to-work laws. From automobiles to aeronautics, Alabamians are hard workers.
Alabama’s potential for recruitment should be considered in the bidding war for Amazon’s second headquarters, as well. Home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Huntsville is the 25th most educated city in the country. Huntsville was named the number one city for engineers by Forbes in 2017, with over 60 engineers per every 1,000 employees in the state. This is a key factor in choosing Amazon’s second home, since the company has specifically asked interested cities how they can accommodate Amazon’s need for qualified engineers.
Another requirement for Amazon’s new campus is easy access to an airport. Both Birmingham and Huntsville host international airports that operate hundreds of daily flights. Amazon has also expressed interest in increasing air travel for Amazon planes, which these airports are equipped to operate. In addition to air travel, the state is accessible by water. Alabama hosts one of the country’s largest ports—the Port of Mobile. Through this deep-water port, Amazon would gain direct access to waterways serving the Great Lakes, the Ohio and Tennessee River Valleys, and the Gulf of Mexico.
As major cities throughout North America are bending over backwards to woo Amazon, the company cannot overlook the importance of quality of life for its employees. Home of the original Mardi Gras and the Crimson Tide, Alabama is rich in history and culture. Birmingham, Huntsville, or Mobile would make an excellent counterpart to Amazon’s original headquarters, particularly for those who prefer a warmer and less rainy climate than Seattle. Unlike DC or the Bay Area, the cost of living in Alabama is the eighth lowest in the country—a key incentive for young professionals. In the feeding frenzy for Amazon’s second headquarters, Alabama should not be ignored.
Sam Bhate – Bhate Environmental Associates, Inc.