Well, darn. Alabama can’t win ’em all. Even Nick Saban knows that.
Two weeks ago, Toyota and Mazda chose Huntsville as the site for their combined mega-facility that will open in 2021 and promises to employ 4,000 people, with other jobs expected to hatch as parts suppliers flock to north Alabama.
If Alabama was good enough to win the Toyota-Mazda sweepstakes — a prize everyone coveted — then surely at least one Alabama city would make the initial cut for Amazon’s lucrative second headquarters that will bring a $5 billion investment and more than 50,000 jobs to the fortunate winner.
Birmingham, perhaps? Or Huntsville?
Amazon unveiled its top 20 list this week and, alas, Alabama was shut out. No Birmingham. No Huntsville. Nothing. Nashville’s on the list. And Atlanta. And other Southern locales such as Austin, Texas, and Raleigh, N.C. Two Pennsylvania cities, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, made it, as did Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Washington and Denver.
For what it’s worth, give Birmingham credit. It tried to sway Amazon any way it could. Oversized shipping boxes erected in select locations served in a social-media campaign designed to catch the eye of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. The city tried to overcome the weaknesses of its proposal — the state’s low educational rankings and the city’s lack of hub-sized airport with direct flights to Amazon’s Seattle home, for starters — by emphasizing the state’s track record with international automakers, its access to federal interstates for shipping and a government open to hefty tax incentives.
Truth is, Alabama’s largest city just wasn’t big enough, progressive enough, educated enough or developed enough to meet Amazon’s demands. And that is what Gov. Kay Ivey, the state Legislature and those who want our state to compete for the next Amazon-type deal must understand.
Everything matters. Regressive, if not embarrassing, politics (think: former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore) are black eyes liberal-leaning companies want to avoid. Populations with low numbers of college-educated residents fare poorly in these high-stakes contests. Poor national rankings in K-12 education don’t help, either.
Lawmakers must understand how much those ailments trickle down to them when they under-fund public schools, when they reduce funding to higher education, and when their political parties worry more about winning elections at the cost of the state’s future.
If Nick Saban were in this discussion, he’d likely ask those lawmakers what’s their concern: doing what’s best for the team, or doing what’s best for themselves?