The small town of Toomsboro, Georgia has been on sale for a while now and is attracting some attention after an article noted that its $1.7 million list price was comparable to the cost of a single-family home in California's San Francisco Bay area. Given that Amazon shelved its plans for the other half of HQ2 after being kicked out of New York City, Jeff Bezos and company should take the opportunity to put their dollars to work where development is needed most: rural America.
First things first, the average price of a home in San Francisco is not $1.7 million, it's $1.3 million according to Zillow. So we are talking about a house that costs more than 20% more than the mean in one of the most expensive areas in the world. Still, the minor difference between the average price of a single home in California and an entire 34-acre town in Georgia is striking.
This is a perfect example of how the US has become increasingly urbanized. With all the money and investment flowing into the big cities, and young, educated workers leaving their smaller hometowns in search of a better life, rural areas have stagnated. Income and home prices relative to big cities have clearly dropped off. The change is not only in the US, as a report recently compared the regional salaries in the UK as differing by an astounding 25%.
Amazon's decision to put HQ2 in New York was never the right one, but not for the reasons that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other local politicians argued. It had nothing to do with the fact that they were given tax breaks or anything along those lines.
Instead, it was more to do with the fact that Jeff Bezos dangled this incredible carrot in front of many cities around the US and then snatched it away. The influx of jobs and revenue would have permanently altered the economic landscape for those regions - for the better. Even in a mid-sized city like Tulsa, Oklahoma the impact would have been considerable.
The lack of investment from big multinationals is why entire towns like Toomsboro can be purchased for less than the list price of this two-bedroom, one-bathroom San Francisco home.
Politicians like to talk a lot about helping small businesses and rural communities, but in reality, they do practically nothing for them. As this video demonstrates, they might say that “small business is the backbone of our economy,” but they certainly don’t act like it.
The driving force behind why the vast majority of elected officials do things is usually extremely simple. They get paid by corporations to act in their interest, so they do. If the old opera house we saw in the Toomsboro promotional video could stump up a few million dollars to lobby DC, it might still be holding shows. This doesn’t mean all politicians are bad, but the money can distort even the most steadfast of moral compasses.
So here is my proposal. Amazon doesn’t open a new HQ in a big urban city; instead, it opens a network of regional offices. The focus would be on rural areas across the country where populations, in general, have been dwindling. This would help fight against the "brain drain" - and the Toomsboro tragedies that inevitably follow.
It is excruciating how often staunch conservatives and liberals alike on both coasts complain about “flyover” America. For an allegedly patriotic country, the United States views the vast majority of its landmass - and the people who live there - with nothing short of derision.
As someone who has lived at various times in the Deep South, the Midwest, and on the West Coast, I can tell you that everyone wants the same thing: a well-paying job, a safe community, and somewhere nice to take their significant other on date night.
It’s time everyone stopped complaining about flyover country and started working toward a solution that helps these forgotten economies thrive. If anyone has the money to do this it’s you, Mr. Bezos, and after a month of bad headlines, you would have a generation of people forever in your debt.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not represent those of, nor should they be attributed to, CCN.