EDITORIAL: Between the lines on Amazon list — what makes cities work

SHARE EDITORIAL: Between the lines on Amazon list — what makes cities work
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(AP Photo/Reed Saxon, File)

If you listen to political rhetoric from certain quarters, you might have expected Amazon — seeking a location for its second headquarters, dubbed HQ2 — to turn to tax- and service-cutting cities where lower wages are touted as the key to prosperity.

EDITORIAL

But that isn’t what happened. The list of Amazon’s 20 finalist cities released Thursday looks a lot like a map of cities where the focus is on strong economic activity. Besides Chicago, the list included Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas; Denver; Indianapolis; Los Angeles; Miami; Montgomery County, Md.; Nashville; Newark, N.J.; New York City; Northern Virginia; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Raleigh, N.C.; Toronto and Washington D.C.

Chicago should be proud to be on that roster.

We don’t know which city Amazon will pick in the end, of course. But Amazon is making it clear that cities in general won’t succeed by letting their key systems, such as education and public transit, crumble in a mistaken push to benefit businesses’ bottom lines.

Amazon, now based in Seattle, says it will spend $5 billion for HQ2, bringing up to 50,000 high-paying jobs to the city it selects. Amazon has said it wants access to a major airport, public transportation, top universities and well-educated workers. You don’t get those things by making right-to-work laws your priority.

And it’s not just Amazon. Apple also is planning to build another mega-corporate campus and hire 20,000 workers during the next five years.

On Thursday, Gov. Bruce Rauner — instead of enthusiastically talking up Illinois’ bid — reacted to the Amazon news by criticizing Illinois’ “corrupt system.” What kind of sales job is that?

By contrast, Mayor Rahm Emanuel struck the right note Thursday, using Amazon’s announcement to further tout Chicago’s bid, saying, “There’s a reason companies across a spectrum of industries continue to pick Chicago. … This is a good day for the city of Chicago.”

Just making Amazon’s top 20 list won’t bring jobs or investment to the city. But it’s a sign we’re on the right track.

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