Dear Indianapolis: When it Comes to HQ2, You Do You.

4 min read

Indianapolis skyline at night

Dear Indianapolis,

Congratulations on making the Amazon HQ2 Top 20. I’ve traveled enough to know you are the right kind of city for this opportunity. It’s nice to see the rest of the nation is catching up.

Still: You are no Atlanta. You definitely aren’t Washington D.C. (although you have nearly as many monuments). You certainly aren’t an Austin or a Boston.

And that’s a good thing.

In the coming weeks and months, you’re going to hear some trash talk about how boring and backward you are compared with more exotic cities (like Columbus and Raleigh). Your competitors will talk about their amenities, their airports and mass transit, their business-friendly environment—and their breweries and Broadway and baseball and blah, blah, blah.

You can play that game. You can remind people of your internationally recognized airport or the jewel that is the Cultural Trail. You could pull up the articles calling you the Silicon Valley of the Midwest. Remind people of your up-and-coming restaurant scene. Or point to Blue Indy, the biggest electric car sharing service in the country.

Blue Indy electric car
Small electric cars. Biggest sharing service in America.

But why should you? That will quickly turn into a “my hands are bigger than yours” showdown.

That’s not the kind of city you are. You are so much more.

Last Friday, I was waiting in the lobby of one of your world-class hospitals and nearly a dozen people I didn’t know—doctors, patients, the guy parking cars—all smiled and said hello. At 8 o’clock in the morning. Tell me that happens in cities like Boston and Pittsburgh.

Plus, have you seen the latest cost-of-living figures for some of your competitors? It costs 14 percent more to live in Austin and a whopping 73 percent more in D.C. Compared with housing prices near HQ1, Amazon execs will be able to buy twice as much home for the money—or have that much more for everything else they want to do in their lives.

Not only do you know how to stretch a dollar, your suburbs continue to make the lists of best places to live and work and raise a family and start a business. But you already knew that.

And how about that commute? My friend Ken Honeywell may be able to bike to work, but I live in Fishers. Even though my friends joke about bringing a book on tape when they come over, it usually takes me 32 minutes to get from 116th Street to Fountain Square—at rush hour. (Take that, Los Angeles.)

Sometimes I’ll opt for a slightly longer route so I can go through town. I like to follow the canal so I can see the joggers and families biking to school. There’s also this white colonial on Washington Street that I’ll go out of my way to see. Sometimes I’ll head east to College Avenue so I can see Common Thread, my favorite of the Vibrant Corridors that combine art and interstate underpasses.

Pillars of Society
This one is “Pillars of Society,” by Tom Torluemke.

Or maybe I’ll wind over to East Street so I can stop for coffee at Henry’s. (I always see someone I know there.) Lately I’ve been using Alabama to cut through downtown. Driving over the bricks by the City Market and past the new Cummins distribution headquarters is the best way in all the city to remember our past and see our future.

According to the odds, you are a long shot to land Amazon’s multi-billion-dollar prize. As you know from all your experience with sports, everyone loves an underdog.

For what it’s worth, I would take that bet—because we know something those bookies don’t.

You have never been content to rest on your laurels. You’re committed to becoming better every day: more inclusive, more equitable, more prosperous, with more opportunity for anyone who wants to step up and claim it.

And if HQ2 doesn’t land here? No apologies and no “just glad we were on the list.” Congratulate the winner with the grace that’s just a part of our culture and go about your business.

You do you, Indy. If Amazon goes somewhere else, the mistake’s on them.


Indianapolis skyline photo nicked from Visit Indy. Blue Indy car photo from “Pillars of Society” photo nicked from