It’s been said: “If you want me at the crash, be sure to invite me to the takeoff.”
“Better yet: Before the takeoff.” *
There’s just so mch to unpack in the Amazon/New York City decbacle that the effort can exhaust even the most robust Tuesday Morning Quarterback . And for all of us who were not “in the room” during the negotiations, it takes a bit of “New York hutzpah” to butt in.
Maybe failure was foreordained.
It’s clear that seemingly something went very wrong, very fast in what could have been a big win for both parties – an iconic company in a storied metropolis.
As in many divorces there are, of course, two sides to the story. But what seems apparent is that not all of the important players in this drama felt that they, and their constituents, were being adequately heard, especially on the matter of $3 billion in tax subsidies being offered to Amazon.
Here’s how the New York Times put it in “the morning after” coverage:
“Amazon acted as though its popularity — and its early support from key politicians, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio — would clear a path to political concessions. But the company miscalculated the power of local organizations, who turned what might have been a straightforward construction project into an all-out political brawl.”
Whoa … It was never going to be just a “straightforward construction project.” Not in New York City — and, it’s forecast, not in many other cities in the future. Local governments and citizen organizations – aided by attention in both traditional and the newer social media – are becoming a force that must be acknowledged and engaged in company location planning. They have “standing” in such matters.
Actually, New York City Mayor de Blasio, a progressive politician, linked the debacle to much larger national socio-economic issues: “The lesson here is that corporations can’t ignore rising anger over economic inequality anymore … Amazon’s path in New York would have been far smoother had it recognized our residents’ fears of economic insecurity and displacement — and spoke to them directly.”
The potential for tax subsidies and similar concessions may well arise in other locations. Axios reported this week that “public outcry against spending taxpayer dollars to subsidize big companies is spreading… what may be most notable is the tech companies [Apple, Google] that have secured deals with cities for new buildings during the time when Amazon has been mired in bad publicity for its fight over HQ2 …”. Deals with little or no tax breaks.
Oh, by the way: Did we mention Foxconn and Wisconsin — and deal-supporter Governor Scott Walker’s failure to be re-elected?
*A model for real public relations (often misunderstood): Engage with all of the organization’s publics (creative listening). Scan for all relevant internal/external issues. Review policies/performance in that context, adjust as necessary. Then project to publics. Measure effectiveness. Repeat the circle — continuously and forever.