Our Opinion: Bidding for Amazon may do some good

It was good of the state to put in a plug for Pittsfield and Lee as potential homes to Amazon's second headquarters, although it might have better coordinated that effort with the communities in question. Still, submitting a credible proposal could establish the groundwork for other business recruitment efforts that may be more realistic than this one and get the Berkshire name out there for consideration.

The office of Governor Baker met Amazon's deadline of last Thursday for instituting bids by submitting proposals for 26 sites in Massachusetts, including the William Stanley Business Park in Pittsfield and adjoining properties and the Greylock Mills and Columbia Mills in Lee (Eagle, October 21.) The state's pitch for Pittsfield noted the business park's location in the center of the county and close proximity to Boston and New York, and touted Lee for its proximity to the Massachusetts Turnpike.

The state, however, will apparently step aside at this point and let communities advance their own programs. This is fine for Boston, which has been aggressively pursuing Amazon and submitted a more than 200-page proposal touting the city, but Pittsfield and Lee have not been players to this point. Roberta McCulloch-Dews, Pittsfield's director of administrative services, pointed out the reality that "We don't meet the criteria at all." Amazon has made it clear that it prefers a site within a metropolitan area of 1 million or more people. That would rule out the Berkshire entrants, and the poor road network leading to Pittsfield is a further disadvantage for the city in pursuing Amazon and other tenants to the business park that once was home to General Electric.

The Sunday Boston Globe listed eight North America cities — Boston, Atlanta, Austin, Texas, Denver, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C. and Toronto — as front-runners for Amazon and the 50,000 jobs that its second headquarters will provide. That is pretty formidable competition for our humble Berkshire communities.

There is no harm, however, in Pittsfield and Lee building on the state's effort and submitting detailed bids. There could be some benefits. The 52-acre business William Stanley Business Park certainly offers ample room to build in. As the governor's sales pitch noted, the two towns are located in a county this is aesthetically attractive and a worldwide cultural destination. Local taxes are lower than in Boston and likely the other top bidders.

Pittsfield has been waiting for another GE to drop out of the sky to provide jobs and build the tax base and Amazon is not likely to be that business. But the city could attract some notice by getting in on the Amazon sweepstakes and perhaps draw the attention of a manufacturer or other business that may find the city and county to its liking. Other small municipalities that face the same economic challenges Pittsfield and Lee face are undoubtedly thinking the same thing. So let's get some bids together out of the Berkshires and run them by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.


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