Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Sept. 16, 2017.
Dear Mr. Bezos:
First, I’d like to call you Jeff. Perhaps I am being a bit presumptuous because you don’t know me personally, but I am one of your good customers.
Look me up; you’ll see. And then you’ll believe me about being on a first-name basis with all the UPS drivers who regularly pull up in front of my house with my Amazon purchases, which are nicely packed in those smiling cardboard boxes that keep my local recycling center happy.
Because of that, I feel I can call you Jeff.
So, Jeff, I’ve read that you’re looking for a city to house a second headquarters for your amazing company. (Did I mention how good a customer I am?)
You have your pick of any city that tickles your fancy, Jeff. Face it: You’re the bachelor, and some of the greatest cities in the U.S. and Canada are lining up for the chance at a red rose. These cities include Chicago; Washington, DC; Toronto; Atlanta; Boston; and New York. These are all great cities, for sure, full of prosperity and residents and culture and jobs.
Word has it, though, that you’ve already picked where you want that second headquarters to go. But on the off chance that you are truly giving consideration to a number of locations, remember that while these cities would love to have you, they don’t need you. The prosperity and residents and culture and jobs they have will remain, whether or not you locate your second headquarters there.
So, Jeff, I’d like you to think about looking outside the (Amazon) box. I’d like you to consider choosing a statement city, an underdog that has proved its mettle and resilience and heart over the years.
You know, Jeff, with the choice of location for your second headquarters, you could actually save the heart and soul of a rust-belt icon that needs a big shot of what Amazon can deliver.
The city you should consider is making a great American comeback. Its story is the stuff of Dickensian novels, full of despair and grit and redemption. This city has been stomped on, screwed over, and disrespected. Hell, Jeff, its residents were even poisoned by their state government.
If ever a city truly deserved a prime break, it’s Flint, Michigan. I know you’ve not considered Flint, Jeff, and I can’t blame you for that. It’s been suffering, for sure, but if you jump on board now, you can have your second headquarters and reshape the future of one of the greatest hard-luck cities in the world.
In the 1980s, GM started closing plants and eliminating tens of thousands of jobs in Flint, crashing the city’s economy. Michael Moore, one of Flint’s most famous sons, got a whole documentary out of it. In 2010, GM finally shuttered the 235-acre Buick City, one of the largest and longest-running production facilities in the world.
Then came the Flint Water Crisis in 2014, when the drinking water source for the city was changed without properly treating the pipes. This caused lead to leach out of the pipes and into the drinking water of Flint’s households. Two of the former Flint emergency managers — both of whom were appointed by Michigan’s governor — face felony charges over what happened.
Leading Flint through its water crisis is Karen Weaver, its first female mayor. Though she’s not been mayor all that long, she’s been bravely and doggedly working to fix the water crisis, which she addressed at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. I’m guessing she’d be more than pleased to work with you on establishing your second headquarters in the city she loves so dearly and goes to bat for each and every day.
You’ll need skilled and educated workers. FYI: The city is home to the Flint campus of The University of Michigan, and I can speak about the wonderfulness of UM-Flint because my kid is a student there. There are lots of other educational opportunities in the Flint area, which is also home to Kettering University, Mott Community College, Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, Baker College’s flagship campus, as well as the satellite campuses of Davenport University and Spring Arbor University.
There are also plenty of cultural opportunities available, and I know that’s important for you. There is the Flint Institute of Arts; Flint Institute of Music, home to the Flint Symphony Orchestra; Flint Public Library; Flint Youth Theatre; Longway Planetarium; Sloan Museum; and The Whiting performing arts center. The Flint area boasts a wealth of healthcare options in Hurley Medical Center, McLaren Hospital, and the Genesys Health System.
One of the jewels of the city’s downtown is the amazing Flint Farmers’ Market, one of the tops in the nation, and which has been recognized for its design and sense of community. It’s a market that appeals to anyone who values locally grown, healthy foods; it’s also a downtown gathering spot, and serves as a wonderful resource for the poor in Flint.
I also know transportation is important to a company like Amazon, and I assure you that there are lots of options, Jeff: The city is home to Bishop International Airport, as well as an Amtrak station, and it’s got great freeway access to anyplace in Michigan and beyond.
But Flint still needs more good jobs.
I live in Livingston County, just southwest of Flint (you can ask those UPS drivers for my address); our counties share a border. Livingston County is a bedroom community, one of the best-educated and wealthiest in Michigan, and its manufacturers are in desperate need of workers. The employee shortage is so great, in fact, that a cooperative effort last year put into motion a seven-day-a-week bus service from Flint to Howell-area manufacturers who are in need of workers. You can read all about it here.
There are lots of people working and rooting for Flint. What Flint needs, quite frankly, Jeff, is someone like you to invest in it, to shine a bright light on it, and bring it some really good jobs.
If I were you, Jeff, I’d consider establishing a second headquarters in this city; it would serve your company well AND make a big statement about what you value.
I don’t know you personally, but when I see the resources you’ve put into The Washington Post (which, as an old newspaper editor, I appreciate deeply), I feel like I might know a little something about what you value. How amazing would it be for you and your company to be part of the rebirth of this tough-as-nuts American city? How wonderful would it be if Amazon declared its admiration of and allegiance to the underdog, perhaps the greatest creature ever in American history?
Flint is on the rise, Jeff, and you could be the big piece of the puzzle that puts Flint back together. That would be a whole lot more meaningful, rewarding and fun than being another big company in a big city full of so many others, don’t you think?
One of your prime customers