At last, Amazon made its decision. After a yearlong search, in which dozens of US cities competed to host Amazon’s second headquarters, the company announced it will build new locations in New York City and Arlington, Virginia. In a statement about the move, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said, “These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come…we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.”
The search took as long as it did, in part, because of the complex political and economic maneuvering necessary to close a deal of this size, and there have been plenty of cynical motives attributed to Amazon’s search for new homes. But there is something more fundamental at play here than just tax breaks and land values.
Put simply: place matters. In his statement, Bezos says he looks forward to becoming part of a community. This suggests he understands the power of place. He sees that moving Amazon to a new city means engaging with that city’s existing social and physical networks. The neighborhoods where we live and work, the transportation networks that carry us where we need to go, the safety of our physical environment, the schools we can access, the people we interact with each day—these factors are central to who we are, and what we do. There is no escaping their influence; even a company with the wealth and power of Amazon must take place into account when making its decisions. For Amazon to succeed, it must be in a place that facilitates success.