More than a year ago, the leaders of scores of up-and-coming cities across America’s Heartland entered Amazon’s HQ2 competition, espousing the idea that the e-commerce giant might select a mid-size city or metropolis in the Rust Belt, like Detroit or Columbus, for its second headquarters location.
Alas, we all should have known better. On Tuesday, Amazon officially announced its decision to split its awarding of 50, 000 headquarters tasks — not to one up-and-coming city in the Midwest — but between Long Island City in Queens, New York and Crystal City, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C.( The company also plans to create around 5,000 jobs in Nashville .)
So much for the Rust Belt uplift story, one that might help knit a divided country together through mid-market, Midwestern economic development.
Which creates the real story here: Amazon’s decision to invest heavily in two preexisting “superstar” cities perfectly represents one of the most troubling aspects of digital economies: their strong tendency to concentrate people and investment in a very few well-educated, tech-rich hubs that have, in recent decades, continued to pull away from the rest of the country on basic measures of prosperity.