Charlotte Recruiter Won't Detail Amazon Sales Pitch

Jan 24, 2018

The head of the Charlotte Regional Partnership says he won't release details of the city's pitch to land Amazon's massive second headquarters, even though Charlotte is now out of the running. Ronnie Bryant told WFAE Wednesday that's not the way recruiters do business.

Ronnie Bryant

"The reason we do not want to make it public is because we work in a very competitive environment. I do not think we should open up our competitive positioning strategy to our competitors," Bryant said. 

Still, some other cities have publicly announced multi-billion-dollar incentive packages - $2.2 billion in Chicago and $7 billion in Newark, N.J.

Charlotte was one of 238 cities that responded to Amazon's request for proposals for its 5 billion dollar HQ2.   A week ago, the company narrowed the list to 20 - but Charlotte wasn't on it.  Other southeastern cities were, including Raleigh, Atlanta, Nashville and Miami.

Bryant says he was disappointed that Charlotte didn't make the cut. He said an Amazon representative told him the city fell short when it comes to tech talent, though it has a good airport and transportation system.

He says the effort brought together officials from around the Charlotte region in a way that will help future recruiting.

"We truly put together a proposal that showed the highlights of this region and we compiled information that we are continuing to use in other proposals," Bryant said. "This is a dynamic, competitive region and I cringe sometimes when I hear people say, 'Well where where did we mess up? Where did we go wrong?' We did not go wrong."

Bryant says despite losing out to Amazon, the city is working with nearly a hundred other companies considering locations in Charlotte. He says he expects two announcements in the next couple of weeks.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE INTERVIEW

Here's more from that interview with Bryant. Listen to the audio above. 

Bryant said after the announcement, he immediately had questions about Amazon's list.

RONNIE BRYANT: I was disappointed. And it was very obvious to us when you look at the list, based on the criteria that was provided to us there obviously were some other evaluation criteria that we were not made privy to, which is not unusual in an economic development competitive situation.

We did have an opportunity to spend a few minutes on the phone with the project lead and she shared with us some some good news. They liked the fact that we took the time to try to understand Amazon's culture, and we catered our response to that culture, while they were they were very complimentary of the fact that we were a regional presentation - a bi-state, multi-county presentation.  They were very impressed with the growth rate of our tech talent in this region in terms of we're leading the nation in terms of the growth rate. Very impressed with the quality of our airport. Very impressed with the quality of our public transportation infrastructure in terms of at least where we're planning to go from here.

But the one area that they expressed some concern that really, as was articulated to me, that a competitive disadvantage for us as the current pool of tech talent.

DAVID BORAKS: In general do you think that the Charlotte market can do more to attract more tech workers? And the other issue is, you know, we don't have a major research university we have UNC Charlotte which does give tech degrees but is that enough?

BRYANT: Well I don't know if I say that's enough because it wasn't enough for Amazon. But I will say that we knew going into this that the critical mass of tech workers was going to be important to Amazon. Without a doubt. And we presented our data and relative national data that we know Amazon has some other access to that show what we have in this market now in the various categories. But we also coupled that with two things that you mentioned one was the fact that we are the number one growth market for tech workers in the country. Over 77 percent growth rate over the last couple of years.  … that’s based on year to year growth.

BORAKS: So we're adding tech jobs?

BRYANT: We are adding tech jobs at the fastest rate in any metropolitan area in this country.

But even beyond the making the short list and not making the short list ... I want to make it very clear that this was an unprecedented regional experience. We brought together organizations that we've never worked as close with before and we truly put together a proposal that showed the highlights of this region and we compiled information that we are continuing to use in other proposals.

BORAKS: There are a lot of questions right now about what was in the proposal. Can you tell us what the economic incentives were that were offered in that package?  

BRYANT: No we're not at liberty to talk about it. I know there's a lot of dismay about the incentive package. There's two very highly confidential parts of the proposal. One is relative to the incentives from the governmental entities that are involved. And I mentioned two states as well as the counties.

And the other is the sites. We submitted 22 sites. And upon receiving this information from the owners of the sites, as well as the those who supplied us the numbers relative incentives from the individual governmental entities, my promise to them was that that information would be compiled and it would be for Amazon's eyes only. And I will stick by my word. That is the way we gain credibility and integrity with our partners. We maintain that level of confidentiality. And that's just the way it is.

BORAKS: So as somebody who is in this business, I've got to ask you what you think about the fact that Raleigh was one of the 20 finalists. Have you looked at their proposal in any way and what do you think?

BRYANT: No I've not looked at their proposal and to my knowledge they've not seen ours either. But I'm proud that ... a North Carolina city is in the running and and I'm also proud that, based, hopefully a strong southeastern city will eventually end up with this. Because of the ripple in interconnectivity of the Southeast, a project of that magnitude would benefit all of us.

BORAKS: So Ronnie, a year ago all the talk in North Carolina and in Charlotte was about HB2 and we actually lost an economic development project in the middle of that. Is that still a factor here or how has the climate change?

BRYANT: It has not been an issue in this particular project. I do know that definitely a company like Amazon is very concerned about how communities and states approach human rights, etc. But to my knowledge it has not been an issue in this particular process. … We could not have been eliminated because of HB2 when Raleigh is in. Because HB2 is really a North Carolina issue, not a local issue.

BORAKS: Well you mentioned that you have 98 other projects. You know Charlotte missed out on the Amazon deal and there have been others like the Toyota-Mazda deal recently they went to Alabama. Any concern about losing out on big projects like these? Are there any structural problems in North Carolina that keep us from being in the running for megaprojects?

BRYANT: I don't know if there are quote unquote structural problems, but I do believe we could probably be a little bit more diligent in how we prepare and how we prepare sites relative, especially for megaprojects. Mega sites are very important in having a quote unquote pad ready site that's ready to go. A substantial site.

It takes patient capital. You have to sit on it and wait on the next project. And you have to have a state that's going to be very aggressive when it comes to negotiating. And there are some there are some issues that we have had in the past that I think we're overcoming to some degree but I don't I don't think it's a cause for alarm. We just need to continue to make ourselves more competitive.