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Editorial: Hey, Amazon: Chicago's still here

The Chicago Tribune Editorial Board, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Op Eds

A few months ago Amazon picked three cities in which to make corporate investments that would involve the creation of a total of 55,000 jobs. Chicago didn't make the list. But could the Second City get a second look?

On Friday, The Washington Post reported that Amazon executives were reconsidering their decision to hand 25,000 of those jobs to New York City because of opposition by some city and state officials. "The question is whether it's worth it if the politicians in New York don't want the project, especially with how people in Virginia and Nashville have been so welcoming," according to a Post source familiar with the company's plans. It's worth noting that the Post is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, which is only to say that the newspaper has extra incentive to accurately report on the company's thinking.

We don't know why Amazon didn't select Chicago, but the city is a global business center for many reasons, so our suspicions centered on political dysfunction at the state level. Amazon desires a stable, business-friendly environment, but Illinois offers high taxes, red tape and a $133 billion unfunded state pension liability.

But wait! We're not here to tell Mr. Bezos to visit Indianapolis. Gov. J.B. Pritzker took office this month. Mayor Rahm Emanuel aggressively sought Amazon's attention, and we hope the next mayor will show equal commitment to make Chicago attractive to employers and big investments, such as Ford Motor Co.'s announcement Thursday that it will pour another $1 billion into its Chicago-area manufacturing operations.

The future of Illinois depends on job growth; too many employers and workers are leaving the state or bypassing it for friendlier economic climes. Imagine what the addition of 25,000 high-paying jobs, including many software engineer positions, would mean to Chicago. There are open, developable sites throughout the city that would accommodate Amazon. Chicago has a growing digital workforce and pipelines of tech grads from numerous universities.

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We hope Pritzker and Emanuel see Amazon's wavering as an opportunity to dust off the marketing plan and recommit this state and city to become more hospitable to employers. If the duo already have gotten on the phone to Mr. Bezos and company to re-pitch Chicago, then great. Maybe Amazon would be interested. Certainly many other companies might like it here -- if they thought they were welcome.

(c)2019 Chicago Tribune

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