City’s Amazon bid ‘well worth the effort’
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/11/2017 (1833 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Dayna Spiring insists that taking the time and effort to submit a bid for the multibillion-dollar Amazon second headquarters was well worth the effort, even if she acknowledged it is likely not destined to win.
“Whether or not we secure HQ2 — for example New Jersey offered $7 billion in incentives, we offered a central location and a very collaborative business community — we are better positioned today as a result of the work we did and now have a foundation to go after the next one and the one after that,” she told a breakfast audience Tuesday, including many senior members of the business community.
The CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg was speaking at the annual Yes! Winnipeg investor event. Since its inception in 2011 more than 100 Winnipeg companies have invested in Yes! Winnipeg to help fund its efforts, as part of EDW, to attract, retain, grow and start new businesses in the city.
The humorous video accompanying Winnipeg’s Amazon bid, featuring entrepreneur and former Winnipeg Blue Bomber offensive lineman Obby Khan conversing with an Amazon Alexa intelligent personal assistant, was a favourite among the 238 cities that bid.
But can Winnipeg really compete with the other cities in North America for the kind of major human resource and capital investment project that Amazon is proposing?
“Unequivocally yes,” Spiring said in answer to her own rhetorical question.
She said in the past year Yes! Winnipeg has assisted a couple of FinTech companies — ZipRemit and Mogo — to establish a presence here as well as expand the presence of call centre Skybridge Americas’ operations here.
Part of the rationale for the existence of Yes! Winnipeg, and EDW for that matter, is to ensure the positive qualities of Winnipeg’s business environment is better understood and to counter the negative reputation the city has suffered from the in the past.
In a panel discussion at the event, both Mayor Brian Bowman and provincial Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Blaine Pedersen said the city’s strengths and positive momentum need to continue to be better communicated.
Bowman noted that the city grew by 15,800 people last year, its strongest growth since the 1960s.
While explaining the value of taking the time and effort to produce a bid for the Amazon headquarters, Spiring also acknowledged that more than 90 per cent of the business growth in the city is homegrown. For instance, she said EDW staff met this summer with the senior management committee of Great-West Life to pitch that company about the attributes the city has regarding that company’s interest in developing a robotics centre of excellence.
“We wanted to make sure they know what Winnipeg has to offer,” she said. “Yes, they recently reduced their staff but they are looking to grow here. They are very much willing to look at the opportunities. Sometimes it takes people from the outside to show you what we can do.”
One senior Winnipeg business leader said even though it’s understood Winnipeg is not likely to win Amazon HQ2, it would have looked bad on the city not to bid when so many other cities did.
Spiring said part of the value of the exercise was marshalling the resources quickly to put together a bid that can be used again and which turned out to be well regarded landing on some lists of favourite presentations.
An alternate ending to the video was shown for the first time with Alexa telling Khan that Amazon has decided to select another city, and Khan cutting it off to take a call on his phone, saying “Hi Google. OK I’ll pick you up at the airport.”
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.