2018 began with a vengeance for Cincinnati. First downtown’s Macy’s and then Tiffany’s announced they were shuttering downtown, apparent victims of the relentless growth of cyber-shopping. Then, one of the prime online culprits delivered le coup de grace: we did not make the cut for Amazon’s HQ2 and its 50,000 new jobs.

It shouldn’t have been a surprise. Could we really compete with big hitters like Denver, with its nearby ski slopes and legal pot? Surely we couldn’t offer $7 billion in incentives, like Newark, New Jersey; or $5 billion like Bethesda, Maryland.

Amazon said that public transportation would be a big factor in its choice. So it was hard to see us stacking up well against transit friendly cities like Boston, Philadelphia or Chicago. Our downtown streetcar goes comatose in cold weather.

But what really stuck in our civic craw? Four of our regional “peers”—Nashville, Indy, Columbus and Pittsburgh—remain in the Amazon hunt.

Cincinnatians have a certain stubborn pride. Our town is an overlooked gem. Beautiful vistas. Sophisticated arts scene. Major league and college sports. Two great universities. And now a re-polished urban core acting as a millenial magnet.

Something went terribly wrong. How did the city and REDI mess up our Amazon application?

We may never know.

REDI’s Ed Loyd explained to the Enquirer that our rejected application contained the recipe for a “secret sauce” that would be of incalculable value to competitors if it sees the light of day. That left me wondering about his sauce’s secret ingredients. Here is my highly speculative list:

- Renaming the Bengals the Amazons, with new uniforms channeling Wonder Woman’s red, blue and gold costume?

- Pete Rose as the new voice for Alexa?

- Extend streetcar to Amazon’s Whole Foods location in Hyde Park?

- In addition to the typical tax breaks, all local residents obligated to sign up for Amazon Prime?

- Mayor Cranley will personally pick up Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ dry cleaning for drop off at Widmer’s?

- Taxpayers will cover Jean Robert’s salary to toil in Amazon’s executive dining room?

- Rather than improve our transit system, the city will pay for door-to-door Uber service for all Amazon employees?

- Cincinnati’s baseball team will change its iconic team colors to Amazon orange?

- As a sign of solidarity, P&G will be renamed Procter & Bezos?

- An actual secret sauce recipe: the formula for Gold Star Chili, courtesy of the mayor’s in-laws?

So, with goodies like that on the table, how could Cincinnati not make Amazon’s top 20?

Here’s my theory: Curious about that chili recipe, Mr. Bezos sent it for vetting to the Whole Foods test kitchen. Spooned over some hand-rolled gluten-free pasta, topped with a dollop of finely grated aged pecorino cheese, and paired with a vintage Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, the result was . . . heart burn.

But hope springs eternal. REDI is already back in its test kitchen whipping up a new batch of compote de pommes for that mega Apple call center still in search of a location. Bon Appetit, Siri!


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