As Amazon shops for its second headquarters, LGBTQ inclusion may become a factor.
That’s the assessment of Jon Talton, economics columnist at the Seattle Times, in Amazon’s hometown.
“When you look at the creative class, as economist Richard Florida calls it, one of the things you see in these very high-skilled, high-paying job clusters is tolerance,” Talton said in an interview with LGBTQ Nation. “Places with the least tolerance tend not to get these assets.”
Amazon’s selected site could bring 50,000 workers to the host city. The selection criteria in its proposal stress metros with more than a million people, a business-friendly environment, strong regional talent and creative real-estate options for the site and for worker housing. It expects a decision later this year.
Economist and CNN commentator Richard Florida tweets that New York is a top contender, with DC-area sites competing to produce the best financial incentive.
Metro regions with technology workers, with artists and musicians, and with gays and lesbians exhibit higher economic development, according to one of Florida’s economic theories.
Talton, a former business editor, has worked as the Seattle Times’ economics columnist for 10 years. In the Times, on Jan. 18, he explored Amazon’s options among its 20 selected finalist cities.
And in the interview, Talton stressed the company’s track record. “Amazon will place its headquarters at places that are tolerant cities, inclusive cities,” he said.
Conversely, might Amazon and owner Jeff Bezos offset inclusive Seattle with a red-state second site?
“I think it’s an interesting hypothetical,” Talton said. “Trump consistently criticizes Jeff Bezos, who owns the Washington Post. Amazon is also vulnerable to anti-trust issues, so you could make a hypothetical case that Amazon might choose a red state so it could hedge its bets and maybe get a couple Republican senators on its side.”
But, even if that’s the case, he said, you have a potential site like Austin, a blue city in a red state, he said.
Do red-state cities such as Indianapolis, Nashville and Columbus, Ohio, stand a chance? Talton said he doubts it. They might be on Amazon’s list just as eyewash, he said.
Indianapolis, for example, doesn’t have rail transit, doesn’t have a major research university and doesn’t have a lot of tech talent, he said.
Talton said he had no special knowledge on the selection process. “But when you look at where the creative class lives and works, they work in inclusive places,” he said.
“I can’t emphasize enough how much inclusivity for LGBT people and all people is essential for economic success,” Talton said. “It will be a big factor in this decision.”