By Thomas Grech
President & CEO, Queens Chamber
Considering the chest thumping and excitement stirring across the U.S. about the prospect of landing HQ2 of Amazon, it’s important to understand what Amazon needs above and beyond the widely circulated RFP.
Queens County, a borough once traveled through, is now traveled to. The reasons are simple: Queens is a national leader in diversity, education and technology, and infrastructure improvements.
Queens is the most ethnically diverse urban area in the world, with an astounding 48 percent of our 2.3 million residents foreign-born. We get along well together and we work smart and hard. If Queens were an independent city, it would be the fourth most-populous in the U.S.
The tenacity of Borough President Melinda Katz, who has zeroed in on making Queens welcoming to not only residents but businesses as well, makes us the preferred location to live, work and play in New York City and beyond.
World tech leaders such as Amazon have the unique ability, by virtue of their presence, to not only talk the talk of diversity, but walk the walk. What better way to lead by example than to have Amazon take up residence in the World’s Borough?
But don’t come here just because of our unique diversity. Queens is a leader in educational excellence and technological advances. Home to seven colleges and universities, Queens’ higher-education landscape offers everything from modern dental hygiene programs at Plaza College to graduating the most computer science majors in the city at Queens College.
St. John’s University undergrad and law school and LaGuardia and Queensborough community colleges all fill needs not met anywhere else. York College and Vaughn College teach advanced classes in aviation and aeronautics, along with other cutting-edge majors.
Plus, the spillover effect from the newly opened Cornell Tech Center will be to the east, into Queens. And we have the Coalition for Queens (C4Q), an organization that fosters the Queens Tech ecosystem to increase economic opportunity and transform us into a leading hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.
From a tech perspective, we are home to Boyce Technologies, Shapeways, Precision Gear, Flight Safety International, Mondial Automotive and Digital Natives, among others. These are pioneers and innovative leaders in their fields, all homegrown and here to stay.
Spending on transportation infrastructure, such as airports, trains, bridges, and ferries, is between $15 and $20 billion. Other innovative transportation proposals are in the works, such as light rail in the BQX and the potential revitalization of the LIRR Lower Montauk Branch.
Under the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo, we are getting infrastructure designed, built and replaced at an astonishing speed. Queens is becoming more accessible than ever, and we are leading the charge when it comes to alternative and revitalized modes of transportation.
If Amazon or any other Fortune 500 company wants to break out and truly become an international organization, they need to experience and operate in Queens. They need our neighborhoods, they need our workers, they need our intellect, and they need our diversity to localize themselves here to springboard globally.
The time is ripe and the time is now for making Queens the next headquarters of Amazon.