The cities of Buffalo and Rochester, N.Y., are joining forces as one economic corridor in hopes of convincing Amazon that the region is a worthwhile contender for HQ2, the proposed second headquarters for the Seattle-based tech giant.
The news is of particular interest to me, as I wrote last month that Rochester is the town I grew up in and Seattle is the city I have called home for more than two decades. I lived in Rochester when it was a sizable company town thanks to the presence of Kodak, mainly, as well as Xerox, Bausch & Lomb and IBM. And I have seen Seattle change dramatically in recent years thanks to a tech boom fueled by Amazon’s massive growth.
But over the years, as Kodak missed badly on digital photographic technology, Rochester fell into a slump like many towns (including a bunch that are pursuing Amazon) hit hard by the drain of high-paying engineering or manufacturing jobs.
Now that Rochester has hitched its HQ2 wagon to Buffalo, a bigger city 60 miles to the west, we’ll have to see whether the region’s chances are any better. There is certainly a greater chance of meeting more criteria on Amazon’s request for proposals — more people, more potential sites to develop, more universities in play.
When I was younger, Buffalo was the place with better chicken wings and better music. That entire half of New York state cheers for the Bills, and Rochester suffered right along through four straight Super Bowl losses.
The legendary lake-effect blizzards are a shared struggle that can literally turn a little kid’s walk to school into the stuff of legend. Uphill in both directions? Try doing it in three feet of snow.
“In assessing the full scope of the Amazon HQ2 RFP opportunity, it was apparent that by linking our efforts, the combined Buffalo Rochester Metro Corridor can offer a proposal that is both compelling and extremely competitive,” said Tom Kucharski, president of Invest Buffalo Niagara, and Matt Hurlbutt, interim president and CEO of Greater Rochester Enterprise, in a joint news release on Thursday. “With over 2.2 million people, a very talented labor pool, and an extremely livable community, our organizations are excited to join forces in attempting to draw the interest of Amazon.”
The release also touts a highly skilled workforce and low-cost operating environment before throwing some big tech terms Amazon’s way: “strong regional competency in radio-frequency identification (RFID), sustainable packaging, flight controls, drone technology, high-performance computing, software development, and data analytics that will help our proposal stand out.”
The Buffalo Rochester Metro Corridor submission will also provide details on the region’s “well-documented affordability,” which I find to be the most attractive part of any city or region that doesn’t yet have Amazon and 50,000 high-paid tech workers living in it. The ability to buy a house or six in Rochester for what one would cost in Seattle is a big deal — and something that would surely go away if Amazon somehow bit on this forthcoming bid.
Years before any tech bros even pack a potential bag for the Buffalo-Rochester area, the cities landed on surprising new list put out by Realtor.com and Yelp. Rochester’s Highland Park neighborhood is the “hottest hipster location” in New York State, and No. 5 in the country, behind … wait for it … Seattle.
Another compelling aspect in all of this is GeekWire’s own announcement this week that it, too, has put out an RFP for an HQ2. Our humble news site plans to relocate a body or three in February 2018 to a city-to-be-determined to discover new stories and meet new people in North America’s next great tech city.
With my connections to the Rochester and Buffalo area, I’d have a hard time not going back if that region added GWHQ2 to its list of proposals to put together. Heck, I could sleep in my parents’ house to save our little company some money!
And before I even left Seattle — if Rochester in the middle of February became an actual
prison sentence work assignment — I’d fittingly turn to Amazon to do some shopping: