Opinion: Keep carrying this package

Metro Atlanta’s now on a short list of sites for Amazon’s second headquarters. That’s great news and proof that we should keep making this region and state more competitive, no matter where HQ2 lands.

We made the first, big cut. That is a big deal when the choice is where Amazon will ultimately build its second headquarters.

Metro Atlanta is now on the short list of 20 possible locations for the so-called HQ2. That’s a much more exclusive patch of cotton than the 238 cities total that had pitched a relocation package toward the retailing giant.

The first cycle of winnowing has left some worthy contenders licking their wounds and others thankful that they made it into the next round of a competition with very high stakes. As many as 50,000 good jobs and up to $5 billion in brick-and-mortar and other investment wrapped around a single project doesn’t come along all that often.

Metro Atlanta and state officials, at this point, deserve to celebrate an initial win in what may yet prove to be a long, bruising scuffle.

We’d urge that the interim celebration, however low-key, not continue so long as to obscure a couple of relevant observations.

One is that, yes, metro Atlanta’s formidable, unique, Southern-fried brand of energy and dynamism played a large role in carrying the Amazon package this far. Think sexy images of a dense, thriving metropolis that now dominate the nation’s large and small screens, thanks to our growing status as a global broadcast and film capital. That seductive brand, tied with the buttoned-down basics of an attractive business environment marked by low taxes and regulation, we have to think comprises a compelling combination for Amazon.

Those points noted, it’s as important that metro Atlanta and Georgia not lose sight of the need to continue work on the tangible things that make this place a wonderful landing spot for investment capital and jobs.

We need to continue all efforts to ensure, for example, that Georgia consistently grows the kind of workforce that companies like Amazon are looking to hire. That demands a better K-12 system of public education than Georgia currently brings to the table. We’ve made notable progress, yes, but it cannot stop because of political loggerheads – or anything else. That means the state should not drop long-running, so-far fruitless efforts to come up with a new school funding formula for the 21st century. That quest must continue. Beyond 12th grade, Georgia must also ensure its technical college and university offerings remain aligned with what employers are seeking.

The state and region must also realize that low taxes don’t mean much when business leaders, their workers and everybody else literally – and frequently — burn money while idling unproductively in our terrible traffic. Our competitors and friends alike know this point very well. Yes, significant mobility improvement initiatives are underway funded by new fuel-tax and T-SPLOST monies. Those good efforts deserve recognition. But much more needs to be done to keep this region, and Georgia, moving toward greater prosperity.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s promise, for example, to pull the General Assembly back into session if Amazon calls, should also be accompanied by a similar insistence to get something done sooner, not later, on state fiscal support of transit options of the kind that Amazon has been clear in saying must be part of its future second home.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s conservative columnist Kyle Wingfield summed up things well in a Jan. 21 column. “If there are things we need to do anyway to be more competitive, let’s get moving.”

He has an economically sound point, we believe. Let’s keep moving, Amazon or not.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.

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