Indianapolis fell short in its bid to land Amazon's second headquarters, but the Amazon team apparently was impressed enough with the city’s HQ2 bid package that it was given to CEO Jeff Bezos to review personally.
That’s according to Indy Chamber President Michael Huber, whose group led the effort to put the proposal together on behalf of the central Indiana region in 2017.
Huber said his group has since learned from “multiple sources” that the local bid was “one of two that were personally handed to Jeff Bezos” by the Amazon team.
Huber shared that tidbit—along with video elements of the region’s Amazon bid—at the chamber’s “state of the region” event Wednesday. Information about financial incentives offered to the tech behemoth remain under wraps.
“We were in a sprint to try to put something together” for Amazon, Huber said of the fall of 2017, when Indianapolis joined more than 230 other cities or regions in applying to be the host site of the massive economic development project. Indianapolis was eventually named a top 20 finalist before northern Virginia and New York City won the bid. New York City was later dropped.
Huber said now that the process is over, the chamber is repurposing some of the materials it produced for Amazon to show other companies, and to use in general talent-attraction efforts.
The video elements were accessible to Amazon officials on a website built for the bid, as well as on an iPad that was sent to the officials in a custom leather box, which also contained summary information about the bid, according to chamber spokesman Joe Pellman.
One video submitted to Amazon, shown at Wednesday’s event, was a performance by Indianapolis musician Brandon Lott singing the 1968 song “Little Green Apples,” which references Indianapolis, interspersed with pleasant local images.
The video includes scenes of children playing at neighborhood parks, residents conversing on a porch, shots of picturesque urban homes, Butler University bulldog mascot Trip skateboarding, diners at Bluebeard, and Indianapolis landmarks like the Downtown Canal and Monument Circle.
"Little Green Apples," released as a single by O.C. Smith about 50 years ago, includes the lyrics, “God didn't make little green apples / And it don't rain in Indianapolis in the summertime / And when myself is feelin' low / I think about her face aglow and ease my mind."
Another video given to Amazon as part of the bid, also shown at Wednesday’s event, directly addressed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act controversy, and featured local residents Jeff Sandoe and Brent Hendrix talking about the response at the time, when many businesses and community members rallied in support for the LGBTQ community. (See the video below, as recorded by a reporter at the Indy Chamber event.)
It also made references to Indiana's reputation as an uber-conservative state regarding social policies, but said Amazon employees would find a more diverse, and perhaps more liberal, environment in Indianapolis.
“You can’t judge things around Indianapolis by just reading the Legislature,” said Hendrix said in the video. “It doesn’t have an impact, really, on how people are treated in the city.”
Huber said it was important to show more than just a rosy picture to Amazon and to address challenges like RFRA head on.
The videos are part of a larger effort Huber said the Indy Chamber wants to launch soon to improve the city’s image and tell Indianapolis’ story to the rest of the country—and world—in a bid to attract more workers.
“The area we need to make a lot more headway on is image,” Huber said. “There’s a real sense we’re kind of a well-kept secret.”
Larry Gigerich, executive managing director of site-selection firm Ginovus, which helped on the bid, said in a video shown at the chamber event that the Amazon process helped Indianapolis officials see that the city’s image was often seen as neutral, maybe even bland.
He said it would be “critically important” to focus on branding of the region in the future.
“We learned the Indy region didn’t have a negative image or reputation, but didn’t have a positive one,” Gigerich said. “We were in Nowhereland, so to speak.”