Can you see past the superstars?
Dear Mr. Bezos:
I hear that you decided to dump the Big Apple. Sounds from your sad little blog post on Valentine’s Day (how poignant!) like you’re not planning to open a different HQ2 at this time. You sounded a little broken up about the break-up.
But you didn’t sound nearly as grief-stricken as Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal last week. She mourned not only the loss of those 25,000 jobs, but “all the construction, and the signs and symbols of a coming affluence … the sidewalks busy, shops and restaurants humming, hiring.”
I understand about falling in love with NYC, Jeff. I actually got a bit choked up about it last week while driving across the reservation on my way to Lander. The theme from the movie “Arthur” came up on Sirius XM. You’ve probably heard the chorus:
When you get caught between the moon
and New York City
the best that you can do (best that you can do)
is fall in love.
That brought it all powerfully back: The lights, the buzz, the sounds, the gorgeous, cosmopolitan, purpose-driven people. It was all so thrilling!
But I got over it too, eventually. Believe me, I can understand. All those spats about how she was offended that you wanted a few accommodations in exchange for moving in could totally kill the magic before you got to the altar.
Here in remote little Dubois, we hope for the same pleasures whose loss Peggy Noonan was lamenting: busy sidewalks, shops and restaurants that are humming and hiring. And not just in midsummer.
Don’t get me wrong, Jeff: I’m not suggesting that you consider Dubois for your next engagement. We couldn’t sustain another 25,000 jobs, even if we had the workforce.
We certainly wouldn’t want to balloon our population by 2500%. It would utterly destroy us: our magnificent environment, our way of life, and our beloved small-town character.
All we’re asking is one date. Surely among the other educated, skilled people who seek a new life in our truly remote (and tax-free) location, we could spare a place for a few, or a few dozen, who qualify for those “remote” jobs that you regularly post online.
Why do companies like yours always gravitate to the big cities? Working on our flawless Internet here at the edge of wilderness in Dubois, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering that.
According to a recent article in the New York Times titled “In Superstar Cities, the Rich Get Richer and They Get Amazon,” you want to be in locations where there are already lots of tech workers, because you think that grouping innovative people in one location will stimulate more innovation.
Admit it: You guys are always seduced by the divas. Maybe you just can’t help it.
“It’s just absolutely hard-wired into technology economies,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, in that article. “It’s not just a sort of interesting thing that happens — it’s inherent to the technology.”
But at least one other person — Dartmouth University’s online education expert Joshua Kim — thinks there may be some superstars who actually don’t want to live in “superstar cities.” In an article titled Corporate Welfare, Superstar Cities, and the Tyranny of Geography, he wrote: “I have a hard time believing that all the best talent wants to live in Seattle or NYC or Northern VA.”
Besides, is it all about “superstars?” Countless successful people aren’t superstars (including many of your employees), but are productive and vital to our local and national economy nonetheless.
I know some people like that, right here in little Dubois. They work on our Internet, which never fails. They come here partly for the fiberoptic power that comes right to their door. But that’s not the only reason.
Some of them are very unusual telecommuters, people who want to find mountains and wildlife outside their front doors rather than art-film cinemas and Starbucks. In their spare time, these people who spend all day at their keyboards want to hike, rock climb, snowshoe, or go fishing rather than hanging out in bars. They prefer the shadow of the starlight to the glare of city lights.
Maybe some of your own employees dream of raising their children in a safe and very healthy place where class sizes are small, college acceptance rates are high (because small-town Wyoming is under-represented in their mix and also very interesting), and scholarships actually go begging.
Can you help us find some of those people, Jeff, and tell them that we’re here?
© Lois Wingerson, 2019