If Long Island was ever going to be seriously considered as the site of an Amazon second headquarters and the 50,000 new jobs that would come with it, the Nassau and Suffolk County executives should have pooled their resources and signed Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a one-day contract. Rodgers, after all, is the unequivocal master of the Hail Mary, sending long, improbable passes down the field, only to have them caught, miraculously, for a touchdown.
Landing Amazon would have required similar magic. Long Island simply does not offer many of the attributes Amazon was asking for, including these off the RFP:
+ A stable and business friendly environment. Nope.
+ Location that attracts and retains strong technical talent. Definitely not.
+ Lack of traffic congestion. Please.
+ Local government structure conducive to expedited business growth: Light years
But as the Amazon opportunity passes us by, let’s take a long look in the mirror. As a region, we have been hindered by a century’s worth of parochial issues that require bold thinking to solve them.
As millennials become the largest segment of the region’s voters – and it’s happening –
perhaps it’s finally time to take a holistic look at our region and proposed structural
solutions to come of its chronic problems. A failure to do so will lead, inexorably, to a
status quo in which we are rejected by many, many more Amazons.
If we keep getting passed over for comparable regions, what incentive do millennials
have to stay here?
So let’s re-canvass the attributes that Amazon was looking for and offer solutions.
A stable and business friendly environment: A George Washington University
study indicated that walkable urban real estate projects are huge drivers of property
value, sustainability and social equity. We need to embrace a walkable, connected
suburbia like those found in Northern Virginia. We should set an ambitious goal of
doubling these kinds of endeavors in the next decade.
Location that attracts and retains strong technical talent: There is a massive,
glaring disconnect between job seekers, educators and the manufacturing and tech
sectors. Manufacturing companies here number in the thousands, but so few young
people in our schools are aggressively courted by them. We need to bridge this gap.
A region lacking in traffic congestion: Recent LIRR expansion will help, but local
governments should work with wildly popular ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft
to provide innovative transit solutions. It worked in California and can work here.
Local government structure conducive to expedited business growth: If we
are ever going to get serious about lowering property taxes, we need to confront the
scary idea of consolidating or eliminating redundant local government entities.
In sum, we need to re-imagine our outdated institutions and innovate the ways
government delivers services to constituents and businesses alike. If not, we are destined to be throwing Hail Marys forever.