The Lehigh Valley should be Amazon’s new Headquarters

The Lehigh Valley should be Amazon’s new Headquarters

Published: October 15, 2017
Updated: October 19, 2017

My Pitch to Amazon:
Bring HQ2 to the Lehigh Valley

Amazon HQ2

The Lehigh Valley should be Amazon’s new Headquarters

The technology newsfeed a few weeks ago got me thinking and excited: Amazon is looking to develop and build a second headquarters in the United States, in an undetermined location. I shared my excitement with my (normally disinterested wife). Why? Because Bethlehem is her hometown and we both agree the Lehigh Valley should be Amazon’s new Headquarters.

Amazon’s existing HQ is located in Seattle – home to Starbucks, T-Mobile and of course, Microsoft, which puts it on the map in the pre-eminent tech city in America, second only to the Silicon Valley. The news, that the world’s largest ecommerce company is on the hunt for a new headquarters, quickly caught the attention of many state, regional and local legislators, economic advisors and committee members. But my attention turned local, to a different kind of Valley – the Lehigh Valley.

Update: Today is the day all proposals are due to Amazon. The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp submitted its proposal and after meeting with them a few weeks back, am VERY hopeful Amazon too will see what seems so obvious to us in the region.

Location, Location, Location

Recently, my family and I have relocated to Bethlehem, PA. My wife Michelle grew up watching her parents, grandparents and extended family make a living working for the town employer, Bethlehem Steel Corp. Sadly, the Steel is no longer in the steel business. Instead, today, the Bethlehem Steel plant is a tourist destination comprised of a Casino, hotels, shopping, skating rinks and several entertainment facilities like the Arts Quest, Steel Stacks and other local attractions. It is truly an enterprise reinvented.

The Lehigh ValleyThe Lehigh Valley began its transformation decades ago by embracing businesses like transportation, distribution and logistics. It is ideally located near busy interstates that connect NJ ports to the rest of the Mid-Atlantic region. It’s hard to miss all the trucks as they move (or often don’t move due to an accident) through Highways 22, 78, the Northeast extension of the PA Turnpike (RT 476) and other important roadways that that connect the Poconos, western NJ and the northern parts of the Philadelphia via RT 33, 309, 222, RT 81, etc. That’s exactly why distribution centers have multiplied in in the region in recent years. They include Advance Auto Parts, Aldi, Boston Beer, California Cartage Co, Curtiss-Wright, Nestle, Ocean Spray, Primark, Uline, Walmart, Zara, a new one million-square-foot FedEx distribution hub at the airport and yes, even Amazon! It’s all about logistics.

The Lehigh Valley story already includes Amazon. Yet there is more to the story, unfolding in the future, if the Lehigh Valley residents seize the opportunity that this simple headline offers. Amazon wants cities throughout the US to pitch them on WHY Amazon should name a city the new home of America’s leading ecommerce, entertainment, cloud computing and now Whole Food’s supermarket retailer.

Challenges await, but if we pull together, we win

The challenge to win the attention of Amazon, heart, and business, will be more difficult than pitching a new idea on Shark Tank. Business leaders, politicians, workers, students and residents need to be informed and excited about this opportunity. Sure there’s the obvious arguments that will arise like how badly many roads need attention. There’s already congestion, but it is growing pain to be embraced and solved by allowing Amazon to weigh in and contribute to the solution. Perhaps the airport even is rebranded Amazon Airport.

The payoff is great; this is likely the biggest opportunity the Lehigh Valley will have in the foreseeable future to accelerate the reinvention of the region. It’s more than building a stadium for hockey or concerts, bigger than attracting a major casino. It’s about an incredible company asking who wants to dance with them, who wants their business.

This is an amazing opportunity! It offers a serious transformation and revitalization for generations to come. Residents throughout Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton need to pull together and share this vision because everyone benefits from unity. It’s #Prime day for the region to embrace its future.

As a former QVC marketer, here’s my quick pitch to Amazon & Jeff Bezos.

Why the Lehigh Valley should be Amazon’s new Headquarters

We are…

1) Close proximity to Major Markets

We are within a 1-3 hour drive to Philadelphia, New Jersey, NYC and Washington, D.C., which means we can attract key people from nearby markets. The Lehigh Valley can scale its existing transportation & bus system to accommodate the influx. We know where the accidents, congestion and backups occur and can work together to fund and shape an infrastructure for the future through this opportunity. Perhaps even a high speed rail system never seen before here in the U.S. connecting the region to NJ or NY.

2) A strong Labor Force

We are a great source of ecommerce & logistics talent, middle management from commerce and retail companies throughout the region including drawing outside the Valley from Philadelphia, NJ and NYC. More people means more need for skilled and unskilled labor as well, such as needs for food, childcare, education, health care, construction, etc. The existing labor force can be quickly trained through many great schools in our region and benefit from on going classes and certification programs.

3) Great Real Estate

We are a great real estate development opportunity for Amazon’s offices. The Lehigh Valley is central to the mid-Atlantic region but unlike larger cities which are congested, there are many locations in the Valley that are well suited for expansion, near major roads for easy access. A downtown area of ABE, would be complicated but locations within the local market that pull all three areas together would be ideal. A great example of this was QVC in West Chester which evolved as the company grew and saw the region grow as a result.

4) Excellent Colleges & Universities

We are home to tomorrow’s innovators & business leaders. Schools including Lehigh, Moravian, Lafayette, Penn State LV, DeSales, Cedar Crest, Muhlenberg, ESU, KU, LCCC, and NCC. Between internships and recruitment, Amazon would benefit from great minds. And great minds would benefit from a cutting-edge company in their backyard.

5) Amazon is already here

We are ready. Amazon already has strong roots here in the Valley. It is local, having distribution centers in the ABE market. It also has several existing and plans for future Amazon Distribution Centers located nearby in central NJ, including the largest Amazon facility which announced plans for three additional centers in or near central NJ. Moving Amazon’s second HQ to the Lehigh Valley will give them the opportunity to be near their eastern US operations, where the majority of their customers are located.

Amazon Prime Airline

The Lehigh Valley Airport could even be renamed Amazon Airport. What a great hub for Amazon Prime Airlines.

Prime Pitch – Time to sell Amazon on the Idea

Those of influence, power and position in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania need to see this as the most important “sale” – ever. It will be uber competitive by state’s like Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and NJ. It’s easy to see, however, that the Lehigh Valley should be Amazon’s new Headquarters. We should be the strongest contender and candidate to blend diverse culture and community as well as proximity with Amazon’s approach to commerce.

Yet there are only a few days left to get this done. It’s time to put a solid strategy in place to get this done. Local Lehigh Valley leaders (and those at the state level), need to prepare a #PrimePackage, a superb “deal of the day” Amazon can’t pass up!

The Lehigh Valley has the change to finish emerging from under the cloud of yesteryear’s steel industry and “steal” this HQ award from Amazon. There will never be another opportunity of this size, magnitude or importance again in our lifetime. We must realize what this could mean for the residents, future residents, our children and their children throughout the Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton region because regardless of the final physical location they may chose here, it benefits the entire Valley. Even Musikfest, the nation’s largest non-gated free music festival in Bethlehem, would love a new sponsor – presented by Amazon Music.

The Valley is on an upswing, but it needs another major industry to put it back on the map as a region known for innovation. This is the opportunity to land a major employer that would help the local economy in ways economists cannot fully capture because the Lehigh Valley should be Amazon’s new Headquarters!

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Lehigh Valley should be Amazon's new Headquarters
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Lehigh Valley should be Amazon's new Headquarters
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There's a competition right now to earn the business of the world's leading ecommerce company, Amazon. A prime location easily overlooked is that the Lehigh Valley should be Amazon's new Headquarters
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GMG
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