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Episode 1 – Amazon HQ2 + Virginia Reflections

Site Selectors Guild
Episode 1 – Amazon HQ2 + Virginia Reflections
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Rick Weddle: Welcome to Site Selection Matters, a podcast that takes a close look at the art and science of site selection decision-making. I’m your host, Rick Weddell, executive director of the Site Selectors Guild. Every two weeks we plan to bring you a new episode that introduces you to different members of the Site Selectors Guild and offers insight into the best and next practices in our profession. As this is our first episode, we decided to kick things off in grand style. We’re going to have a discussion with two people who’ve been in the news in the past year around the Amazon HQ2 competition.

Holly Sullivan is the head of Worldwide Economic Development for Amazon. She manages the HQ2 search that’s been in the news for the past two years. Stephen Moret is president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the successful suitor of the Amazon project. Also, on today’s podcast and playing the role of interviewer is Mark Williams. Mark is president of the Strategic Development Group and a long-standing member of the Site Selectors Guild. The interview was recorded at the Guild’s recent conference in Salt Lake City. Here’s Mark’s interview with Holly Sullivan and Stephen Moret.

Mark Williams: My name is Mark Williams. I’m a member of the Site Selectors Guild and the former chair. And we’re delighted today to be in Salt Lake City at the Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference. In our fireside chat with Stephen Moret, the president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and Holly Sullivan, director of Worldwide Economic Development for Amazon, the topic that we’ll discuss today is Amazon’s HQ2 project and its selection of Virginia, the thought that went into that process and that final decision. What is truly unique about our gathering today with Holly and Stephen is they’ve never been together before in this format, either on a podcast or on a stage. So, there’ll be plenty of interaction and dialogue between them. Some of it’s spontaneous. Some of it a reflection on their story in this project. Stephen, let me start with you. How did you find out about the HQ2 project?

Stephen Moret: I was actually out of town when…I was traveling in Virginia and started getting a bunch of emails. My phone was just going off constantly. And the first one was of the forwarded “Wall Street Journal” story that talked about this big search. And when I first saw the numbers, I thought maybe it was a typo. You know, maybe it was 5,000 jobs, not 50,000 jobs. But it was an exciting day.

Mark: When you started the process, what did you think were your assets and liabilities, just what was big on either side of that balance sheet?

Stephen: Well, I think, first of all, we started from the position of having a long-term relationship with Amazon. Amazon has about 10,000 jobs in Virginia now, including fulfillment centers, data centers, East Coast campus of AWS. So, we felt really good about that relationship. When you look at the RFP criteria, we felt that, overall, we lined up pretty well. Northern Virginia is part of one of the biggest tech markets in the country. We knew that was gonna be a big selling point for us both in terms of the current talent, as well as being the largest producer of tech talent, even before the investments we’re making in North America.

We had amazing sites, multiple sites that we were really excited to share that would accommodate more than the demand that Amazon was talking about. We had a business climate that they had really come to like and that many, many companies have like very stable, very competitive in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Incredible amount of diversity, particularly Northern Virginia, far more diverse than Silicon Valley relative to the tech market. That was something that was important to Amazon as well.

With all that said, we were concerned in a couple of ways. We had three regions that we thought could be competitive, Northern Virginia, Greater Richmond, and Hampton Roads. Greater Richmond and Hampton Roads would be quite cost-competitive, but maybe a little small. Northern Virginia really maxed out all the criteria except one and that was cost. And that was something we were concerned about right to the end.

Mark: We’d heard that you had about six weeks to respond to Holly’s RFP, and we’d heard that you enlisted some consulting help. Tell us about that.

Stephen: Sure. Looking at a project of this scale, I mean, think about a large corporate headquarters project would be, like, you know, maybe 250 jobs, right? So, this was like 200 Fortune 500 headquarters projects all in one project. We knew that our competitors would be bringing their absolute best game and that we needed to do that as well. We also knew that we had multiple plausible competitor regions. So, we knew from the outset, we’ve gotta put together a world-class proposal, or set of proposals.

One very quick realization I had was, you know, the most obvious way to do that is to get some additional help. We were fortunate we had a McKinsey team that had been working with us on our statewide growth strategy with a particular focus on building the tech talent pipeline. We actually made an amendment to that contract and extended them. We also expanded our existing relationship with a marketing firm to help us with the creative and design work. While the state and local team really led the project, lead the overall thinking, the strategy, and so forth, having the additional professional services help was a big, big help. Governor McAuliffe at the time committed to provide up to a million dollars if we could get matching dollars. We did get matching dollars. We ultimately had a budget of about $2 million, nearly all of which we spent in that first six weeks. And the result of that was three world-class proposals, three customized websites, drone videos, everything that we needed to really put forth a great case for three regions in Virginia.

Mark: Fantastic. So, Holly, you start working for Amazon in 2016, and then in 2017, you’re assigned a project. It’s a big project. It’s starting at 50,000 jobs, $5 billion in investment. We had a chance to chat last night and you were talking about the culture of Amazon. And it’s a unique culture. And what I’m wondering is how that was reflected in your search, the tenets of Amazon’s culture. How has that reflected in your search? How would we recognize that?

Holly Sullivan: So, we have our leadership principles, but there’s a culture within Amazon and we really make all of our decisions based upon customer obsession. And what that means is how can we continue to innovate on behalf of our customers? And the headquarters search was no different than that. We needed to make, you know, a decision and a location on where we could find, you know, an innovative and creative community and hire the innovative, creative people within that community to build that talent pipeline so we can continue to do that.

We also have a philosophy at Amazon where we make decisions and we work backwards from those decisions. So, we made a decision to do a second headquarters and we worked backwards on how are we actually gonna implement that? What’s the process gonna look like? The other thing we do, which is, I think, unique to Amazon is we don’t do PowerPoint presentations. We write everything in documents. We do one, three, and six-page documents. And within those, you lay out the plan, but you also outline, you know, pros and cons so you can really make informed decisions with the leadership team that’s involved in the project. And that’s what we did here.

Mark: Well, as you said, Holly, your culture, one of the tenets is transparency. You make decisions and you work backward. I mean, these are reflections of how you do things as a company, how you relate to your customers that what suddenly transported into a site selection process, which caught many by surprise. No problem. You have to go to the beat of your drummer, no question. Stephen, you know, prior to you get into Virginia, there was a great deal of controversy in Virginia about deals, incentives, lack of callbacks, lack of due diligence. How did you…? You came in after that, and now you’ve got this big project. You started…Holly started in 2016, and the project was assigned to her in 2017. You started your new job in early 2017, and several months later…

Stephen: Three months later. Yeah.

Mark: …there you go. Right? So, how did you handle the incentive case, in particular, related to the concern that had just occurred in Virginia?

Stephen: Yeah, we had actually spent several months working to beef up our due diligence process, our risk management efforts at VDP, before the Amazon RFP came in. So, I think we had already rebuilt a lot of confidence with our legislative leaders and with the administration in that regard. What was one of the great things about the way the Amazon agreement is structured is that the incentives both state and local are post-performance. So, there’s really no fiscal risk to the state at all. In fact, our first incentive payment to Amazon will not be made until fiscal year 2024. You know, after all the facilities have been established, after growth is already occurring, and then all the payments in the future will be post-performance in the same way. The local incentive package is structured in a similar way. So that really helped to build a lot of competence.

Mark: What role, Stephen, did economic impact analysis…which I assume you did at the outset, what role did that have in the consensus that you seem to have built?

Stephen: It certainly had a big role. I mean, this was…It’s really difficult to overstate the enormous amount of revenues that this project will generate. Even at half the size in the first 20 years, we estimate at least $3.8 billion of new gross state tax revenue over and above what we’re currently getting an enormous sum, even after you count all the direct and indirect things that we’ve committed to do. But that analysis was certainly the heart of how we put our package together. But it was also influenced by what have we done on a per-job basis for other significant corporate headquarters projects as well?

Mark: Fantastic.

Stephen: It’s actually an important thing to remember is that there was a lot of discussions nationally about the size of the incentive offers. But really, what’s unique about this project, both in Virginia and nationwide is not so much the incentives on a per-job basis, it’s just that there were so many jobs that the numbers add up to a significant number…

Mark: Quite a bit.

Stephen: But when you look at what states are really offering, most of them are quite reasonable relative to the economic value the project would generate.

Holly: And I think that’s another important point, too, is that, you know, it’s hard to compare one state incentive to another state incentive because the tax structure and the way the incentive works is very different. But going back to what Stephen said about the post-performance, as from the company perspective, that was also important, and we had a lot of really good conversations about it, that we’re being held accountable for the creation of the job, the capital investment, and then, in turn, the taxes that will be generated from the project too, which will assist with the development of the incentive package, which I think is really…you know, it’s kind of taking incentives to a different level and kind of changing the conversation on the post-performance, as opposed to, you know, a clawback.

Mark: Absolutely. So, Holly, you’re in this search and evaluation for a year-plus and Virginia’s selected. If you reflect, what are the top two or three reasons Virginia was selected? Just cut to the chase. Why did Stephen and his team win this deal?

Holly: So, primarily, you know, talent was the primary driver of this entire project. And not only being able to have the day one talent, which is looking at the D.C. Metro region has it…and kind of indexed on the tech talent, but the opportunity to really invest in the education and create that talent pipeline for years to come, not only for an Amazon but really creating that ecosystem of educational infrastructure that Stephen and his team really put together with the local community. I would say that.

Also, the overall business climate of Virginia is very supportive. We have over 10,000 employees already in the state of Virginia. So, we look at this as an extension and expansion of the investments and the relationships that we already have. And the location also, and it’s, you know, Crystal City, Pentagon City that’s being coined a new neighborhood of national landing, that location lost over 30,000 jobs during the BRAC. So, being able to bring those jobs back over 10 to 12 years is just a re-investment and a re-energizing that entire location and diversifying that base.

And there’s other reasons too, the welcoming culture of Northern Virginia and D.C. Metro understanding that our employees will be welcome and supported. The mass transit was also important. So, there’s just a lot of different ingredients. But also, if you go back to the RFP, we wanna locate in a community that wants us and wants to support the project and our employees. And the Commonwealth, from the beginning of their RFP, demonstrated that desire.

Mark: So, Holly, you know, we have an audience of economic developers listening to this podcast. If you were gonna share one or two best practices with them based on your experience with Stephen, and Virginia, and the Arlington community, what would they be?

Holly: I would have to say regionalism. And there was another, you know, important point is that having the Commonwealth and Arlington County working together with Alexandria, Loudon, Fairfax County, all of that, and Washington, D.C., and the suburban Maryland communities, this project will have a regional impact. Our employees will be living in all of those jurisdictions. So, approaching this from a regional perspective of opportunity really made a difference. And, you know, in the RFP, we were very deliberate to include a lot of adjectives as it relates to regionalism and the importance of that. And the RFP and the site visits and the entire experience really championed the regionalism in Northern Virginia.

Mark: Very good. You know, how…

Stephen: And I would just add, Mark, we really owe thanks to Amazon for catalyzing that. One of the things the RFP really called for was a regional response and in the history of Northern Virginia, in almost literally 100% of cases, they would always compete by locality. So this really brought that region together in a way that they had never collaborated before.

Mark: And, you know, in the site selection business, that’s so important because one of the things, whether it’s an internal economic development and site selection team or the consulting group, the kind of company that I operate in, you’re always looking at that community and that state and how they interact with each other. Because that’s a gauge of the business climate because they’re gonna be challenges whether they’re in six months or three years or five years. And you want some vision of how that’s gonna play out. So I can understand how powerful that is and just your discussion, Stephen, of the six weeks prep in coalescing of resources, that’s a pretty phenomenal story just in itself. Holly, switching gears a little, Amazon started with a request or an RFP that had 50,000 jobs in it. Later, that was split. Tell me what the original thought on 50,000 was.

Holly: Yes. So, realize that 50,000 was not over a couple of years. That was over a 20-year horizon. So, it’s incremental, organic job growth as our teams continue to grow. So that was the intent of the 50,000. And those are projections. And projections are meant to be nuanced and can be changed. I don’t have a crystal ball and I don’t think anybody does. But we really looked at the growth rate of our Seattle headquarters and made projections based upon that as informed as we could. And so, yes, we think it is realistic. And, you know, the idea to split into 25 really came…It was another organic decision that was part of our continuing discussion of where can we find that day one talent, but where can we continue to invest in the talent pipeline? And if you look at a New York City, and a Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C. Metro Area, that gives us the opportunity to really create that East Coast talent pipeline, whether we have you know, very similar with our Seattle headquarters, we have a large presence in San Francisco, and Los Angeles on the West Coast. So, it is an opportunity to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also give our employees that choice of living.

Mark: That choice of living and, again, the option where you can grow to the size you need to.

Holly: Yes and be nimble. Yes.

Mark: That potential has to be there. Holly, one question of interest in terms of the final site selection, particularly related to Virginia, what insight can you give us in terms of your executive team and your team as a whole and how they came to that decision? Generally, who was involved and just generally what the process was.

Holly: Yes. So, again, it was a cross-functional team that was really working on that, kind of, day to day of the project going on the site visits. And, you know, we needed to choose a location because we’re gonna have many teams that are gonna be growing in this location. So there was buy-in, but there was also, you know, our leadership team, including our CEO, Jeff Bezos, and his direct reports were very engaged throughout the process because they needed the information so that their hiring teams could also understand the community, what some of the opportunities for talent, pipeline, the real estate sites, and, you know, how to develop those in relationship to, you know, sustainability efforts in green space, and what’s important to us too. And having a dog-friendly campus is important to us. So we were all really engaged in the process throughout.

Mark: You know, Stephen, I ran a state development agency at one point in my life, and I just remember, we would win big deals, and we’d get a lot of pushback, frankly. We’d get pushback from members of the business community. We’d get pushback from politicians saying we gave somebody too much. I just wonder what kind of pushback you may have gotten because you formulated a competitive package.

Stephen: There really was not much broad-based pushback after the announcement. There are certainly many issues we dealt with in great depth before thinking about impacts on housing, impacts on transportation infrastructure, and how we could respond to those. But there was a broad recognition in the business community that Virginia needs to diversify away from its over-reliance on the federal government. This obviously is a big kick in that direction. There’s a recognition that our tech talent sector is our biggest job creation opportunity going forward snd that the biggest thing we need to do to enable that is to expand the size and the quality of the tech talent pipeline.

This project has really catalyzed a huge focus on that tech talent pipeline. I personally interviewed many tech executives in Northern Virginia in the process of, kind of, cultivating the project, particularly after we were selected to, sort of, the top 20, if you will. One of the questions that we posed to them was, what would it mean to your company if Amazon HQ2 came to Northern Virginia? And almost 100% of them said this would be a good thing for us. Certainly, a little bit more challenging maybe in the short-term, but in the long-term, we’re gonna build a more vibrant, a more bigger, higher quality, more dense, more innovative tech talent market. They saw that as a big…

Mark: And I’ve never seen that level of transparency in what we would call corporate interviews. Never seen it. How much of that transparency do you attribute it to…I’m gonna get back to Holly’s or Amazon’s culture of transparency…the way they started the project?

Stephen: No, most of it, I mean, I think that’s been…really give great credit to Amazon for making this public. First of all, I don’t think there’s any way they could have kept it confidential probably with the scale. But by making it public, it really gave us the ability to engage folks in a way that would have been much harder, you know, if this was sort of a typical, all, you know, confidential site selection process. We were able to talk to a lot more people. I mean, literally, hundreds of people were engaged in this from housing advocates to transportation officials, higher education folks, tech talent executives, and everything in between.

Holly: And I’ll add to that too a little bit. You know, in the site selection projects, it’s oftentimes, you know, the community reacting and trying to make decisions for the company, but it’s also important for the company to listen to what’s important to the community and to the state so we can make joint decisions together. And there’s a couple of key things that Stephen pointed out, you know, that diversification of the economic base away from federal jobs wasn’t really important to them to be able to support the project. So, you know, within our MOU, there’s a statement that, you know, no more than 10% of our jobs will be focused on federal contracting. And that was really important to them. Since it was important to them, it needs to be important to us as a company too.

And, you know, I go back to, you know, economic developers, they have those relationships with existing companies so they can have these types of conversations. But it’s also important for the company to take responsibility and have those meetings also. So, I’ve met with most of the larger employers now in Arlington to have these conversations and answer the questions that they have, that may impact their employees or some of their corporate culture too.

Mark: So it’s, in essence, what I would call needs-based selling, but it’s a two-way needs-based selling.

Stephen: It really was, Mark. I mean, I think one of the stories that really hasn’t been told is how collaborative this really was. I mean, when you think about incentives, for example, I think Amazon rightly would expect, you know, a package that would be comparable to what this represents. At the same time, there wasn’t the kind of pressure that we normally feel on these projects. I think one of the things that I perceived Amazon to be very sensitive to is to make sure that everything that we would do in the context of this project was consistent with the character of both the local community and the state. Honestly, for all the big projects I’ve done, it was the most enjoyable process of going from what our original proposal was to the final agreement.

Mark: And the other observation listening to you, Stephen, I have is you wanted to win the Amazon deal, and you did, congratulations, but you also were looking, or Virginia was looking for a transformation in transportation, in education, in talent development, so many other things. To me, that’s interesting because so many times, site selection deals are focused on winning a company and winning that deal. And I think your expectations and desires were so much broader than that. And so are Amazon’s because they had to start the farm there. I mean, this had to be fertile ground for quite some time where their culture could succeed. So, fantastic.

Stephen: And look, Amazon deserves a lot of credit for that because when you look at how the process started, I mean, I’ve been involved in many big deals where the primary pressure from the company is on, you know, ramping up the incentive value. This was not one of those projects. In fact, one of the things…In fact, I would even say, more than literally any project I’ve ever worked on, Amazon was asking questions around how do we ensure that there is a healthy tech ecosystem, you know, for the whole sector, for the whole region, over the long-term? You know, the interest in the infrastructure for the region, the interest in affordable housing, the interest in the tech talent pipeline was far greater than I’ve ever seen any company bring to a project.

Mark: Sure. Holly let’s steer away from Virginia for a second. Let’s talk about Long Island City. A decision was made, and it was changed. It’s been a couple of months. What’s your reflection on that now?

Holly: So, I go back, you know, kind of to the culture of our company and, you know, again, we make decisions and then work backwards from those. And also, back to the RFP, there’s a couple of things within the RFP that I think kind of highlight the pivot of that decision. And one is, you know, we chose New York City and Northern Virginia because the primary driver is the talent. Not only a day one talent but the opportunity to really create that long-term talent pipeline. But we also need to be a location with a community that supports us in a favorable business climate.

The decision to, kind of, pivot away from New York for this specific project was really built based upon, did we have that political support for the long term? And we were, you know, increasingly getting the feeling that we didn’t. And, you know, we have to make prudent decisions on where we’re gonna put our investments and where we’re gonna invest and our employees also. And so, we’re not moving forward with Long Island City, you know, at this time and focusing on Northern Virginia. And then, of course, we have our center of operations in Nashville, Tennessee also as part of this project.

Mark: Correct. And then you have plenty of operations in New York anyway.

Holly: We do. We have over 2,000 employees, you know, already in the New York City Metro Area. So, there’s opportunity to grow organically still there, just not in a, you know, headquarter away.

Mark: Understand. Understand. Stephen, you’ve seen a lot of deals in your career. You go to Virginia; you’re making things happen. All of a sudden, you got the RFP, you’ve got six weeks. It’s, you know, a year, year-and-a-half, you’re turning, you’re coalescing your team. What are your top two takeaways from all this in terms of the pursuit? I mean, when you go back and reflect on it right now, I guess, you know, what did you do right? What’s most profound to you as you get a chance to step back for a second and just reflect on this?

Stephen: You know, I had worked on a number of tech projects when I was in Louisiana, actually. And those really afforded me an opportunity to get a better sense of the focus that companies place on the tech talent pipeline. We actually had done, sort of, miniature versions of this tech talent initiative, this huge initiative in Virginia, in Louisiana. And in every case, both the companies, the elected officials, everyone involved was extremely enthusiastic. In some ways, that was kind of a spark or the inspiration for maybe doing that on a bigger scale in Virginia.

One of the things that…Certainly, when I think looking back on it, I’ve never been involved in a project where people brought a greater consistent sense of collaboration and professionalism, state level, regional level, local level, or higher ed partners, the administration, the legislature, legislative staff. And it was just an incredible collaboration. I think the thing that was in some ways the most satisfying was that while you know, as people look at it today, a lot of people say it was the obvious choice. But if you really delve back to 2017 when this first came out, nearly all the predictions were for other places, right? “The New York Times” picked Denver and “The Wall Street Journal” picked Dallas; I think. Moody’s Analytics did a top 10. We were not in the top 10. No part of the D.C. Metro was in the top 10.

We actually had a number of public leaders in Virginia that were very skeptical of us putting so much effort into this because they thought that our prospects were so slim. So, that kind of made, you know, the ultimate result a really satisfying one. But I think the thing that I take away from it more than anything was just the catalytic, transformational potential, really, of this tech talent pipeline initiative. It was something we already knew that we needed to do. But I think in the absence of a project of this type and in the absence of the particular focus that Amazon placed on that, I don’t think we would have gotten it done as quickly or as big as we are.

Mark: Holly, you know, I’ve been in this business for 30 years, in the private and the public side. And I just see deals have taken twists and turns, and I get to reflect or I have reflected on things that have happened in large deals I’ve worked in my career. And we know that hindsight is 20/20. And so, like I mentioned to Stephen, I know you’re still busy with this, but what’s your reflection after these announcements? And if you could do something differently, what would you do differently from the outset or in the process?

Holly: So, I think the process worked. So, I don’t think I would change anything about the processing, including, you know, the public aspect of it because we learned so much through that process also. And there’s been other projects that have cultivated because we learned about communities and we’ve created several thousand jobs, you know, in North America as a result of this process beyond HQ2. And so, I think I think the process worked. We did site visits to all 20 locations. And the site visits, we learned so much on those site visits. But as…you know, you’ve been doing this for a while. You must have started when you were 5, by the way, if you’ve been doing it 30 years.

Mark: You were 6.

Holly: I was 6. Yep. Yep. But as you go on those site visits and, you know, we had a team involved, we had our legal team, we had our HR team, our finance team, our real estate team, so there were several of us that were, you know, engaged and, kind of, cross-functional working on this project, it gets tiring in doing all those locations. So, maybe I would have added in some breaks. We had some natural breaks. Now that I think about it, I was thinking about all the weather. Traveling in the spring probably wasn’t the best decision because we did a bomb cyclone. We did tornadoes. We did Nor’easters. So we had all these, you know, kind of, interesting weather patterns. But, you know, those are minor things. But I think at the end of the day, I think the process worked. I’m really confident in, you know, our end result of this process. So there’s nothing substantial that I would change.

Mark: So, Holly, and let’s step back or let’s go forward another 20 years. This has been a rigorous process. It’s been intense. In 20 years, what is your takeaway gonna be or what do you learn from this, or what do you want to apply, or what initiatives do you wanna partake in? How’s it changed your life and your career?

Holly: You know, I get to, you know, go to bed sometimes thinking about this, and that I sometimes pinch myself that, you know, I got to work on the largest, maybe the largest economic development project…

Mark: I’m jealous.

Holly: …in history. So, there’s something to that. You know, I sit on the public side for, you know, 20 years of my career. And during that time, you know, there are some tough days working at the local level, but I always told myself, you know, my job is to provide a job to a mom and dad that doesn’t have to commute for 30 minutes or an hour or something. So, HQ2 brings that to the local level. We were providing 25,000 jobs in Northern Virginia, 5,000 jobs in Nashville, Tennessee. Both of those are the single largest jobs announcement in both of those states. So it’s gonna have not only the job impact but the creating that, you know…And looking at Nashville also, it’s gonna kind of think change the tech conversation for the Southeast, but also change the tech conversation in the D.C. Metro Area that’s been so reliant on the federal jobs.

So, I take I think some pride in just the, kind of, nuts and bolts of this is about creating jobs. You know, there’s a lot of other noise that went along with this project. But at the end of the day, the primary reason we did this was to create jobs and continue to innovate on behalf of our customers. And we take that very seriously at Amazon. And I think, also, you know, being a female and being able to really elevate the economic development profession from a female perspective is, you know, kind of personally important to me.

Mark: Very good. Well, both men and women have so much to contribute to this profession. And it’s great to see your success because I’m sure that’s gonna motivate other women. And we need those other women. We need everybody we can get to do a great job.

Holly: I think we need…I agree. And, you know, the economic development is so important at a local level and a state level because it’s the single place you can go to find information about real estate sites, that local knowledge of where your residents live, but also keeping a pulse on what’s important to the community to make sure that community is sustainable and successful for the long term.

Mark: Stephen, like Holly, I mean, this is a rigorous process. I mean, a lot of hours. Family probably didn’t see you for a bit. Personally, what does this mean to you and what do you think it’s gonna mean in the future when you’ve had a little time to reflect on it, years? What does this experience mean to Stephen Moret?

Stephen: Well, first of all, you’re right that I think Holly would probably agree that both of our families made some sacrifices during this process.

Mark: I’m sure they did.

Holly: Yes.

Stephen: One of the things that made me happiest on the day of the announcement was that Virginia’s secretary of commerce and trade, in introducing the governor, thanked my wife for all the sacrifices she made so that I could work all this many hours. I wasn’t the only one, many, many folks, but that meant a lot to me. As I think back on this project, just the transformational impact, I mean, obviously, it’s a career capstone, in some ways, although I’ve got a lot of career left. But the opportunity to use all the tools in the toolbox to help create something special is something, you know, I’ll always cherish. But I think in the long run, it’ll be the impact that this is gonna have on the people and families of Virginia, and the impact it’s going to have in really cultivating a thriving tech ecosystem in the Commonwealth.

Mark: Thank you. Wow. Stephen and Holly, what a great success story. What a great partnership. What a great break-in to new ways of doing things in site selection, which I know others are gonna emulate the success you both have had. So, I’m so happy and delighted you joined us and hope many of our economic development allies, friends, site selectors enjoy this podcast as much as I have. Thanks so much.

Stephen: Thank you as well.

Holly: Thank you. Thank you.

Rick: So, thank you for listening to our first episode of Site Selection Matters. That’s going to be a difficult one for us to top in the months ahead, but I always like a good challenge. An enormous thanks to Holly Sullivan for giving us an inside look at the Amazon HQ2 project, and a special thank you to Stephen Moret for sharing his perspective on the project from an economic developer’s point of view. Again, I’m Rick Weddell, executive director of the Site Selectors Guild. We hope you’ll subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. We look forward to bringing you some great discussions in the year ahead.