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Gary, Indiana throws name in hat for coveted Amazon HQ2

The rustbelt city located just miles from downtown Chicago is making its case for Amazon’s second HQ

Ever since Amazon announced intentions to build a second headquarters in North America earlier this month, countless cities have announced intentions to submit a formal proposal for the coveted corporate outpost which Amazon says will translate to 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment over the course of a decade. Cities like Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, and DC have been cited as strong contenders for the project, but a new challenger has approached—Gary, Indiana.

The rustbelt city has suffered from decades of deindustrialization which has translated to steady population decline and downtown deterioration. However, in the last couple of years, Gary has made an earnest effort to preserve its historic buildings and to attract attention to the city through architecture tours and fundraising campaigns.

However, the northwest Indiana city has its aims on a much bigger target—Amazon’s HQ2. Earlier this week, the City of Gary paid for an ad in business section of The New York Times which pleads for Jeff Bezos and other Amazon execs to consider the self-proclaimed “City of the Century.” The lengthy ad, in which Gary the city writes about itself in a first-person narrative, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is asked to contact Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson directly.

Dear Mr. Bezos,

How are you? My name is Gary and I am a legacy city in the northwest corner of Indiana. I was born in 1906 and my parents were Elbert Gary and U.S. Steel.

As a steel town, I experienced exponential growth—in fact I was nicknamed the “Magic City.” But you know what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket. I rode the big wave during the industrial revolution but I took a huge fall once that wave ended. My population decreased from a high of 180,000 to the current number of 80,000 residents. Because people moved to other cities for jobs to support their families, twenty percent of our residential property and half of our commercial property is vacant or abandoned. That problem alone comes with a $50 million price tag. I could go on but that is not the point of my letter. There are actually many positive things on my horizon—a new hospital, new businesses, the activities of my port authority, and transit-oriented development; but the gravity of my challenge requires something more.

Recently, you announced that you were looking for a new community partner. Conventional wisdom says based on the qualifications outlined in the RFP, I would not make the grade. But that is because you don’t know about my natural assets—my location 30 miles from Chicago at the population center of North America, three class-one rail lines, an international airport, the port, a commuter rail line that gets people to Chicago in less than an hour and four interstate highway in a state with a pro-business environment. And land? Jeff, I have all the land you need. I am also home to one of the most robust commuter campuses of Indiana University and next door to the commuter campus for Perdue University. But the best part about me are my people—resilient, eager to work. I am ready to welcome a new business to town—but not just any business, one like Amazon that will transform me for my citizens. Then our leadership-I have driven leadership; a hardworking City Council with Ronald Brewer at the helm and my Mayor, Karen Freeman-Wilson, a woman who believes enough in my promise that she works tirelessly to lead a phenomenal team to fight way above their weight class.

The only thing that is missing—you and the Amazon team. I know locating to me may seem far-fetched. But “far-fetched” is what we do in America. It was far-fetched for 13 scrawny American colonies to succeed against the might of the British Empire. Far-fetched to land a man on the moon. Far-fetched for a business selling books out of a garage to succeed in business and philanthropy. Like Amazon, I am, once again, both a game changer and a unique opportunity. We can strike a mutually beneficial deal that changes the course of my future as well as the families who live here. There are so many people who have counted you, me, us, and the people of Gary out. Let’s put our teams together, and we can—and will—both win. So please email my Mayor at kfreemanwilson@ci.gary.in.us or call her at 219-293-5329 so she can fully explain why I am your choice for the second headquarters in the USA. I can’t wait for the two of you to get together.

For me, Amazon, and the people of Gary, IN, I thank you and, of course, I look forward to your favorable response!

Sincerely,

Gary, Indiana

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