Steve Case: The 230 cities that lost HQ2 ‘perhaps can create the next Amazon’

  • Steve Case says the 230 cities that lost out on the bid for Amazon’s HQ2 have the power to “create the next Amazon.”
  • The AOL co-founder and chairman and CEO of Revolution revealed his theory at CNBC’s Capital Exchange event on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
  • Those cities can turn themselves into start-up ecosystems that can churn out innovative companies, Case explained.

Losing to the urban neighborhood of Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia, may not be the end story for the more than 230 cities that attempted to win the bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.

According to AOL co-founder Steve Case, the 14-month-long bidding process may have triggered these cities to keep the energy going and feel more empowered to build thriving ecosystems.

“Even though it ended up with one city winning and lots of other cities kind of losing,” he said, “those cities can turn into winners if they keep the battle going and keep the community working together and saying, ‘What can we do to be a better magnet for capital and for talent, and how do we create a culture around creativity and optimism and possibilities that will result in many cities rising perhaps faster than they would have otherwise?’” Case, the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of investment firm Revolution and author of the New York Times best-selling book “The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future,” revealed his theory at CNBC’s Capital Exchange event in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. The event featured candid conversations about how business and government can better collaborate to create jobs and economic growth.

He said that of the 230 communities that applied, there were just a few who could really meet Amazon’s requirements, so the time and energy and dollars those cities spent on trying to lure Amazon could have been better exercised by focusing on their own start-up scenes.

What attracted Amazon to Crystal City: its connectivity to Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and the rest of the United States, as well as excellent digital infrastructure, an educated workforce and prime development land. “A lot of people put a lot of energy into it but didn’t really have a shot,” said Case. “If those 230 other places that tried and failed to get Amazon, if they just took half of the time and energy and passion they put into making the Amazon bid—rallying the community, getting people working together collaboratively—and half of the dollars they put on the table as an economic incentive to lure Amazon and refocus it on their start-up community, they perhaps can create the next Amazon.

“In the long run, it may end up being something that will be transformative in terms of what we are trying to achieve in terms of ‘rise of the rest,’ leveling the playing field, in terms of opportunities and job creation and so forth.”

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