Wholesale Inventories

Aforklift operator moves a pallet of goods at a Amazon.com fulfillment center in DuPont, Wash. Feb. 13, 2015.

Ted S. Warren

Amazon has stirred a lot of excitement with its announcement that it’s searching for a second headquarters, somewhere outside the cloudy confines of trendy Seattle.

The competition for the new headquarters is picking up steam, from Birmingham to Boston to Santa Fe and cities anywhere that boast a metropolitan area of 1 million are more, which is an Amazon stipulation.

Pitches to Amazon have included everything from how many days of sunshine Denver and Santa Fe experience each year, to pro sports, the number of coffee shops, craft breweries, hiking trails and a lot of other stuff.

That’s all interesting, but undoubtedly some practical points will come into play, such as infrastructure, airports, education, culture and perhaps politics. A total package of livability factors will likely win the day for some lucky metropolitan area as it lands about 50,000 jobs.

For Alabama, Birmingham statistically is the only area of the state that may qualify in the bidding war for Amazon. As the state’s largest city, there are interstates running south to the beaches, north to Nashville and beyond, west to Tuscaloosa, and east to Atlanta. The area also has a bustling restaurant scene, attracts acclaimed music performers from all genres, boasts a high quality of education, including UAB and its state-of-the-art medical and research facilities, as well as a strong business and retail base.

Is Alabama a long shot to land Amazon? Or will the state emerge as a true contender?

Sifting through the 50 states, you can find positives and negatives just about everywhere.

For our state, we only need to look back at a turning point in Alabama’s economy when state officials were able to convince Mercedes to bring its brand to Vance, near Tuscaloosa. Former Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. and his team worked hard to close the sale against fierce competition. A lot of people were surprised by the announcement because Alabama had not enjoyed a lot of success in that area of industrial recruitment.

Mercedes opened the door to a lot of other jobs in Alabama, including hundreds in the automotive industry. One of the reasons is the Folsom administration believed the state had an outstanding story to tell and the ability to provide a substantial, well-trained work force. The belief was right.

On the negative side of the current search, we won’t dwell on any items in particular, but we know the political shenanigans by former Gov. Robert Bentley and former Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard will be a black eye that will likely not go away.

No matter what happens with Amazon, the competition for such a huge economic prize shouldn’t be out of reach for Alabama. The state still has a good story to tell, and, from Huntsville to Mobile, Alabama is prospering.

Although Birmingham is likely a longshot to land Amazon, we hope it gets a good look. Like Mercedes more than a decade ago, why not Alabama? The rippling economic impact of such an economic jewel would be realized all around Birmingham, including Cullman County, and that would be a future game changer.

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