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Joe Henderson: Two cities, one big push for Amazon

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The news that Tampa and St. Petersburg will work together to attract the much-sought new Amazon headquarters is exactly what outsiders have been saying for decades this area needs to do.

This goes back to when the squabbling sibling cities submitted separate proposals to attract a Major League Baseball team. Baseball bosses rolled their eyes and said this place needs to act as one if it wants to join the league of important cities.

We haven’t been disposed to do that, though. Tampa seemed to get all the big stuff – the airport, University of South Florida, skyscrapers, the Bucs, etc. – while St. Pete endured jokes about green benches.

No one is laughing at St. Pete now, though. It has a thriving and trendy downtown, quick access to beaches, gobs of entertainment options, and any envy it felt about wanting to be Tampa should long ago have subsided.

The last big hurdle that both sides had to conquer was maybe the hardest one – realizing that to compete for prizes like the Amazon headquarters, it can’t be about one location or the other. It’s about a united “us” and that needs to be the mantra going forward.

The mayors here – Bob Buckhorn in Tampa and Rick Kriseman in St. Pete – have joined forces to convince Amazon that it should spend the estimated $5 billion the company has budgeted for its headquarters right here in the Bay area.

St. Pete’s initial pitch includes the interesting idea of making the current site of Tropicana Field available for Amazon. That’s top-shelf thinking that makes tons of sense.

I don’t want to get into a whole thing about the Tampa Bay Rays and where a new stadium should be though. This is about much more than that.

It could bring in 50,000 jobs.

This would be a life-changer more than a game-changer for this area, which is why Buckhorn tweeted he is “happy to partner” with his St. Petersburg counterpart.

OK, reality check: It’s a long shot.

For one thing, our shabby transportation system could, and probably will, be a huge negative in this bid. Maybe that will finally convince enough people to do something about that.

Even in losing, though, Tampa Bay could win. Coming close to landing a prize like this would send a potent message to potential moguls looking to do business here.

The list of cities pursuing Amazon includes all the big boys and represents real competition. We’re used to having pro teams around here, but something like this will teach this place we call home  what it is really like to play in the big leagues.

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Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

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