Amazon sweepstakes? Move on, Chicago!
Amazon isn't bringing a second headquarters to Chicago, but Howard Tullman writes that he sees "powerful evidence that Chicago’s momentum is unabated." (Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune)
There hasn’t been a lot of hand-wringing or despair since Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced the winner of his yearlong quest for a second headquarters and jobs bonanza.
You know why? Because there’s been tremendous leadership and collaboration working in the trenches the past decade to put Chicago on the global tech map — led by 1871’s multiyear status as the No. 1 university-affiliated tech incubator worldwide.
So, was it really a loss not landing the thousand-pound gorilla, where it could potentially inflict damage by crushing competition, close down a few more retailers and strangle a bunch of our fledgling startups?
And that’s if you even believed the HQ2 story, which is now more of an HQ3.5 story (with Virginia, Long Island City, and Nashville, Tenn., all in the mix). I never did.
As I’ve long observed, the only real existential risk facing Amazon is something regulatory or legislative, and those fateful decisions will be made in Washington, D.C., where Bezos already owns the franchise daily newspaper. The Big Apple play was largely driven by media and market concerns. Frankly, the Nashville logistics hub is the only part of this story that was a real opportunity for us, and it’s the thing that Chicago deserved to win on merit from day one.
But the great thing about our city is its rock-solid resilience and commitment to perpetual progress and ongoing improvement. So, the Amazon passion play was merely a hiccup or pothole in the road on a long journey forward. The resurgence of the city’s South Side with a developing new tech district, anchored by the $40 million Kaplan Family Institute at Illinois Institute of Technology; the visionary Discovery Partners Institute, a purpose-driven, collaborative research institute located in Chicago that is focused on creating solutions to grand challenges; new facilities being planned at the University of Illinois at Chicago; the redevelopment of the Michael Reese property — the list goes on. These are powerful evidence that Chicago’s momentum is unabated, and our growth will continue.
Chicago has always been about building a stronger, brighter future. We continue to be a hub of game-changing leaders, abundant resources, first-class universities and innovative vision — like the P33 program, a “Burnham plan for Chicago’s tech future,” which is a remarkable road map to an even brighter tomorrow.
You’re never really out of the game unless you wallow in regret more than dream big. Chicago’s dreams are alive and well, and since Amazon was wishful thinking from the outset to most of us in the tech world, it’s more like a bullet we dodged than something to regret. It’s time to move on and move forward, with optimism and a strong, savvy game plan. Now, that’s Chicago.
Howard Tullman is a professor and executive director of the Kaplan Institute at Illinois Institute of Technology, and the former CEO of 1871.