Send a 21-foot cactus as an attention-getter, enlist the help of the state's congressional delegation to show a unified political front, tap a prominent corporate leader for recruitment. That's how an economic development official in Tucson, Ariz., the governor of Delaware and the mayor of Detroit, respectively, are vying for position in a crowded race to attract Amazon's second headquarters in what one site selection consultant describes as a "once in a generation opportunity."

The e-commerce and information technology giant announced this month it will set up what it calls "HQ2" to complement its existing Seattle headquarters, a project that could lead to as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs and $5 billion in direct investment. It is no surprise that governors, mayors and business leaders all over the country are locked in the high-stakes battle to win the corporate headquarters.


Amazon HQ2: Et tu, Rushern?

Baltimore's odds to land Amazon HQ2 are probably slim. Why must Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker make them slimmer?

In our region alone, the governors of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the mayor of Washington, D.C., are championing the move to their states and cities. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are pursuing Amazon. In all, according to an analysis by the New York Times, 25 metro areas meet at least some of the criteria Amazon desires.

Add Gov. Larry Hogan and Mayor Catherine Pugh to the chorus of voices supporting Amazon's move to their respective jurisdictions. Many are wondering whether we have a realistic chance. So let's see where we stand.

Comptroller backs Baltimore as best option for Amazon headquarters

Democrat Peter Franchot agrees with Republican ally Gov. Larry Hogan that Baltimore is the state's best pitch for Amazon headquarters.

Examining the company's requirements helps us assess strengths and weaknesses. According to Amazon's request for proposal, the company seeks a community that thinks "big and creatively" regarding real estate options, is close to major transportation hubs, maintains a business-friendly environment and has the ability to attract tech-savvy employees. Let's take these one at a time.

Hogan to lobby for bringing Amazon HQ to Baltimore

Gov. Larry Hogan said he will personally ask Jeff Bezos to build Amazon's new headquarters in Baltimore.

Regarding real estate options, Mr. Hogan and Ms. Pugh are backing Port Covington. Rather than a confusing approach of offering numerous sites, better to focus the attention of corporate executives on what our top officials believe is the best specific location. Port Covington, a waterfront peninsula in south Baltimore, is where the action is. Slated to be the future headquarters of expanding Under Armour, the site is injecting an urban vibe to Baltimore. The planned mixed-use development recently attracted the largest investment to date from Goldman Sachs' urban development fund at $233 million. Nothing beats momentum. Advantage: Baltimore.

When it comes to transportation hubs, it's hard to top Port Covington. Direct access to I-95 would shoot would-be Amazon employees quickly to their offices. Check the box too for proximity to BWI airport, Amtrak and MARC lines. While Baltimore's mass transit system is not as robust as New York, Chicago or Washington D.C., a light rail line is planned for Port Covington. Advantage: Baltimore.

Business climate is another matter. As measured by economic policy think-tanks, financial media outlets, and site selection consultants, Maryland ranks in the bottom half of states in policies conducive to business, and it's been stuck there for years. Much credit goes to the anti-business majority comprising the Maryland General Assembly where few members sign a paycheck. Mandated benefits, onerous employer penalties and meddling in private sector hiring decisions are among the legislative measures that businesses fought in the 2017 session. Amazon can do without such legislative oversight. Making matters worse, Baltimore has the highest tax burden in the state. Disadvantage: Baltimore.

We can hold our own in attracting information-technology talent given computer science programs at major universities and federal government cybersecurity operations. Still, the competition is fierce with places like Boston, also vying to win over Amazon, and its top universities. No advantage or disadvantage to Baltimore in attracting the type of knowledge workers Amazon is seeking as compared to other cities.

The question becomes what Baltimore can do to stand out from the herd. Mr. Hogan announced in a press conference on Sept. 15 that if Amazon were to locate here it would be a "shot in the arm" for Baltimore, and he went on to say there would be a unified state-city effort to land HQ2. While this certainly would be a boost to Maryland and Baltimore, let's remember Amazon is looking out for its own interests. While the press conference clearly signaled the state's intentions, a future one will have more impact with the governor and mayor together at Port Covington, outlining specific actions.

Let's hope initial steps are followed up with a refined, forceful pitch within the tight time frame Amazon allotted to evaluate numerous proposals. That way, even if the company chooses to locate elsewhere, we are at least setting the stage to win next time.

Jay Steinmetz is the CEO of Baltimore-based Barcoding Inc. His guest column will appear every other Sunday through October, He can be reached at or on Twitter: @barcodeman.