Will @ATLairport’s power outage impact its run at .@Amazon?

Atlanta is in the running for Amazon’s second headquarters. According to Amazon’s request for proposals from cities across North America, the company expects to hire 50,000 people as a direct result of constructing headquarters equivalent to those in Seattle. Amazon estimates capital expenditures of some $5 billion and on average that its new hires will earn approximately $100,000 annually in compensation.

Amazon has a location preference for metropolitan areas of at least one million people; a stable and business friendly environment; urban or suburban areas with the potential to attract strong technical talent; and communities that think big and creatively.

Access to an international airport ( under 45 minute drive) as well as access to major highways, subways, rail, and buses are also at the core of Amazon’s preferences. Yesterday’s power outage at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport raises issues of redundancy and reliability for an electrical system that powers the world’s busiest airport located in a global gateway city.

So far there has been no public expression of concern from Amazon about how this debacle could impact Atlanta’s attempts to persuade Amazon to move here. There are no specific Georgia Power tariffs spelling out any terms and conditions for service that are particular to Hartsfield-Jackson International.

Politically, this event should also raise issues about how resilient the city truly is if one of its key factors for economic growth and commerce goes offline for so long.

My simple take on what a city is

People move to Atlanta for various reasons. An individual may be a recent college graduate that received their first job offer from a company located here. Others are moving here to start a new business or expand an existing one. Some are leaving a traumatic experience that occurred in another city, like death in the family or divorce hoping that Atlanta provides a platform for a new life. Others simply like the weather and the city’s southern charm.

Whatever the reason, I think continued success here needs to be based on a couple realities about cities in general and Atlanta is particular. While we tend to look at a city from a perspective of what can this city do for me, we should round out our perspectives by asking what does this city expect from me? What is its role? To whom do the benefits of a city truly flow?

I admit that my connection to Atlanta is far from emotional. The city doesn’t feed an emotional need for me. While I would not want to live in a town with one traffic light and no movie theater, I don’t rely on a place for happiness.

What I appreciate and do need from a city is its ability to function as a hub for trade. A city should foster an environment that drives thought. It should have the infrastructure that provides an adequate platform for the exchange of ideas. It should, as a community or society, provide a safe environment for exchanging information. Since people are the primary source of information, people should feel safe and secure moving about and engaging with each other.

City governments promote themselves as suppliers of protection and infrastructure for its city’s residents. City governments exercise a near monopoly over protection services, organizing and regulating violence in order to meet their marketing message. I won’t get in to how individuals can and should compete with government to provide these services for themselves, but for now bear in mind that individuals can, but government does its best to dissuade the individual from doing so.

To stay viable as a service provider to taxpayers, city governments are expected to create public policy that supports the city’s function as a trading post in the digital age. For example, reviewing and approving broadband provider requests to use public rights-of-way to lay cable or construct and deploy cell towers in an expedited fashion provides information entrepreneurs increased assurance that they can conduct commerce in the city. It also provides broadband providers assurance that they can maintain returns on their capital while meeting their customers needs.

The city’s other function is that of a tax collector for its investors i.e. bond holders, members and employees of government, income-transfer beneficiaries. It aims to turn every resident into a tax-generating event, whether through the payment of sales taxes, property taxes, or business licenses. By providing infrastructure i.e. cell towers, streets, airports, the city contributes to the increase in the number of information seekers and information providers that trade in its jurisdiction, leading to an increase in entities that pay taxes and the amount of taxes collected.

How does knowing this contribute to your success in Atlanta or any other city? You can best guess the value you are bringing to Atlanta’s table when you understand what is being traded in the city, the information that is being demanded. You can best structure your labor or entrepreneurial activities to meet those trading needs. You become an asset.

Unfortunately, the State will wish to extract a significant portion of your success via income taxes. We’ll save that for another discussion.