post by Erica Minutella
If you ask me where I got my new patio cushions, or that cute party dress, or the gladiator costume you saw on my cat, the answer will be the same every time: Amazon. It’s a bastion of reliable necessities, motley oddities, and affordable desires. In fact, in that way, it’s a bit like Philly. Because as cities go, Philly breaks expectations by meeting every expectation, no matter how strange or seemingly impossible. It’s equal parts quaint, sophisticated, down-to-earth, cultured, grungy, with a little bit of something to offer every personality type and an outlet for every personal interest.
We’re now less than a month away from the October 19 deadline that so many cities are scrambling towards, as they duke it out for location-of-choice for Amazon HQ2. As that deadline draws ever nearer, it becomes infinitely clearer that Philly is the real-world realization of the Amazon dream, a place where visitors and residents can “find and discover anything”.
There are five dreams in particular that both Philly and Amazon share, which stand out as spaces where the city and company could grow and learn from each other.
With the launch of Amazon Art four years ago, Amazon made it easy for anyone to collect pieces of fine art from galleries around the world. The site breaks the available art into categories like medium and price point, bridging the gap between artists and potential collectors who might otherwise be too intimidated to enter the fine art market.
In Philadelphia, there is an endless number of nonprofits and galleries who are fighting a similar battle everyday, from larger ventures like the Mural Arts Program, which works to engage community members with displays of public art, and smaller spaces and organizations like InLiquid Art + Design and the Center for Emerging Visual Artists, which through exhibitions and events work to make art accessible to everyone.
With hundreds of galleries and museums, not to mention a revolving door of arts festivals popping up every month endlessly, Philly’s breathlessly creative community could breathe some fire into the good fight to bring beauty into every life, regardless of geographic location or economic status. It’s a simultaneously well-established and constantly reinvented community that Amazon would do well to innovate in the midst of.
It took just three years for homegrown tech media outlet Technically Media to expand beyond Philly into other burgeoning tech cities. That’s also how long it took them to create Philly Tech Week, an annual citywide event that takes place every April, bringing tech innovators and enthusiasts together for panel discussions, workshops, conferences, and a whole multitude of events geared towards displaying the latest cool gadgets and resources Philly has to offer and working with the community to plan Philly’s tech future.
The best part of Philly’s tech scene is that there’s plenty of room to grow – and it’s doing just that. At annual events like the Philly Geek Awards, locals come together to honor the city’s best minds, while an ever-expanding array of coworking spaces like Benjamin’s Desk and WeWork, as well as innovation centers like the Penn Center for Innovation, make Philly’s tech scene both intensely collaborative and enthusiastically celebratory.
Amazon HQ2 would be entering the scene at a time when they can still have a profound influence on its evolution, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity not worth passing up.
A bit of an offshoot of both arts and tech, the Maker Movement that started in New York is picking up steam in Philadelphia. Maker spaces like NextFab give tools and support to a surprising number of Philly-based entrepreneurs breaking their way into the physical products market. Community groups like Philly Makers Meetup assist with giving these makers a voice, with monthly events that showcase innovations in industries like biotech, security, fashion, and environmental science. The resounding theme being played out at events like these is that of the everyday entrepreneur. These makers are students, doctors, engineers, moms putting in the time and energy necessary to solve some of the world’s toughest problems – and doing it all from their hometown.
As a distributor of physical goods the world over, Amazon would do well to give itself a foothold in the historically named “Workshop of the World”, where individual Philadelphians are fighting to bring back the city’s legendary status as a space for manufacturing prowess.
We can thank Philly’s impressive number of universities and colleges for the talent showing up in our arts, tech, and maker spaces. The University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Temple University, The University of the Arts, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Moore College of Art & Design – the list goes on and on for well-reputed centers of learning. And as Philly’s Millenial numbers can attest (Millenials make up 20% of the region’s population), our universities attract the talent, and our city keeps it here.
One of Amazon’s main goals being to land its second headquarters in “urban and suburban locations with the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent“, Philadelphia seems like a logical choice.
Philly’s got some pretty ambitious goals when it comes to sustainability. By 2035, the city plans to be both zero waste and 100% renewable, simultaneously eliminating unsightly litter from our public spaces and massively reducing our carbon footprint. Other initiatives, like Green City, Clean Waters, aim to cut the pollution of Philly’s rivers and streams by building new infrastructure around stormwater drains. With such an impassioned and powerful path ahead of us, we’re more than fit to assist Amazon Web Series with their equally ambitious goal of attaining 100% renewability in the long-term.
Whether you’re looking to save the planet, invent the revolutionary, or simply learn and create, Philly’s the city to do it in. It’s first and foremost a city of neighborhoods. A city where community members from every background imaginable come together to build a space with endless personality and endless potential. Amazon would be lucky to call Philly home.