Hey Amazon – Why Not Manchester?
Earlier this week Amazon made national news by announcing it was seeking bids from cities across the US to host a new headquarters location. The new Amazon HQ will house up to 50,000 employees, offering a once-in-a-lifetime transformational economic opportunity for whatever city and state successfully wins the company over.
Hey Amazon – why not Manchester? Yes, major metropolitan hubs like Boston and Denver are considered the favorites to land for the new Amazon HQ, but let’s set the competition aside for now and focus on what Manchester brings to the table. Manchester, the largest city in northern New England, features one of the most vibrant and successful innovation districts in the country, Manchester’s historic Millyard. The Millyard, once the the largest textile manufacturing center in the world, is now a hub of technology and innovation with more than 800 businesses and 18,000 employees. The Millyard boasts several leading global tech firms as tenants like Oracle and Texas Instruments. Joining these global firms are dozens of fast-growing startups, like PillPack, leading centers of higher education, like UNH Manchester and Southern New Hampshire University, as well as law firms, engineers, CPAs, manufacturing companies and businesses from dozens of other sectors. With the arrival of Dean Kamen’s Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute last year, the Millyard is also now poised to emerge as world leader in bio technology and tissue and organ manufacturing. Without a doubt, Manchester’s Millyard boasts the most diverse concentration of industry sectors anywhere in the Northeast and perhaps beyond.
Over the last few months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with several companies looking to relocate or expand to Manchester and a common theme continually emerges – “we want to be part of the Millyard ecosystem, this is where the action is.” A common challenge these businesses face is attracting and retaining talent and they see the Millyard, along with downtown Manchester and the Greater Manchester region, as a major amenity that appeals to millennial workers. Diverse housing options, restaurants and night life, a thriving arts and culture scene, rich educational opportunities, along with easy access to the lakes, mountains, seacoast, and Greater Boston add to a compelling case these businesses can use to attract workers. For a company like Amazon, New Hampshire’s uniquely accessible government and low-cost tax environment should also be appealing.
This all begs the question, why can’t Manchester be a serious player for the new Amazon HQ? The biggest impediment facing city or state is we do not meet some of the key criteria Amazon has set forth, like a population size that can support the company’s labor needs and mass transit options. So, while we do not (for now) meet the criteria Amazon set out for its new headquarters, that’s ok. There is an important lesson in self-perception we can learn from this opportunity.
It’s time for Manchester to start thinking and believing that we are ready for transformational opportunities like attracting the new Amazon HQ.
Too often I find members of our own community are not aware of the world class innovation, vibrancy, and economic opportunity happening in our Millyard and the Greater Manchester region. While our community has its share of challenges that we cannot lose sight of, it’s time we start “swinging for the fences” and think big. The rapid growth and development of the Millyard has presented Manchester, and the region, with a unique opportunity to become recognized nationally as an amenity rich, high quality of life hub of innovation and commerce that can compete and win against larger metro areas like Boston, particularly as the cost of living in those areas continues to increase rapidly.
Manchester has long been a community known for its rich and unique history and that should never change. But if we are going to seize the Amazon HQ-like opportunities of the future, we need to start being known for the exciting innovation happening today and the promise of tomorrow.