Amazon Should Bypass States That Have Laws Pandering to Hate-Mongers


Instead of extolling the many virtues of southeast Michigan as a possible location for Amazon’s new headquarters, I will instead suggest why some of the other locations being considered are not advisable.

Many of the cities being talked about, such as Boston; Toronto; Washington, DC; and Chicago, are strong contenders. They have the necessary infrastructure, the trained talent pool, access to transportation, and other factors that Amazon is seeking. However, these cities are very expensive, both in terms of office space and salaries; highly congested; and staid. Southeast Michigan can handily compete with these cities, as we offer great value. Plus, the reemergence of Detroit as a metropolitan power is both exciting and attractive.

A fair number of the cities being considered, however, are located in deep red states. While Michigan is currently suffering under Republican domination, our state government is not actively pursuing hateful (and often illegal) laws that pander to homophobes, religious zealots, bigots, misogynists, and other assorted hate-mongers.

Both Austin and Dallas have been mentioned as possible cities for Amazon HQ2, but Texas recently passed both an absurdly stringent anti-abortion law and a police-opposed anti-immigrant law. The ACLU even released a travel advisory “informing anyone planning to travel to Texas in the near future to anticipate the possible violation of their constitutional rights when stopped by law enforcement.”

Another city that has been mentioned is Atlanta, located in another state with a right-wing, dystopian state government. Georgia continues to try to pass laws that would legalize discrimination against LGBT people, that could allow adoption agencies to refuse service based on religious faith, and would bar funding from colleges that declare themselves to be a “sanctuary campus.”

Raleigh has also been suggested as a possible location. But North Carolina’s recently passed anti-LGBT law caused major businesses to curtail their NC expansion plans, and the state lost the right to host NCAA, ACC and NBA championship games. Also making headlines was an appeals court ruling that struck down North Carolina’s voter suppression law because all five restrictions disproportionately affected African-Americans.

The reason these cities are not suitable is that Amazon epitomizes a forward-looking, 21st century corporation, one that serves millennials and is increasingly being run by millennials.

As a baby boomer, I cannot pretend to understand millennial psychology, but based on my observations, they tend to share a common trait: They have a low tolerance for stupidity and intolerance—the exact qualities being demonstrated by states like Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina. As such, Amazon would be doing itself a huge disservice by establishing a headquarters in one of those states where the very people they need to attract are being actively repelled by the inanity of state government.

Gerry Roston serves as the CEO of Civionics, a University of Michigan startup that delivers intelligent sensor-based systems to manufacturers to help them minimize unplanned downtime; and as an Executive-in-Residence at TechTown Detroit, where he helps entrepreneurs transition their ideas into sustainable businesses. Follow @

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