Embracing a disruptive force in Amazon

CBJ Editorial

Iowa City Area Development Group President Mark Nolte stated what now seems obvious in 2015 when interviewed by the CBJ: “So much of our economy is going to be ripe for disruption. If we’re smart and help make sure that we’re innovative and help our companies look down the road and be ready, then they will take advantage of that.”

Mr. Nolte added that “every industry is going to continue to evolve and be disrupted,” but singled out educational assessment, finance, and trucking and distribution as major industries in the area that are going through transformations.

It now looks as if Amazon, the e-commerce giant and iconic disruptor, might be coming to Iowa City for a new “last-mile” fulfillment hub.

City officials confirmed Amazon has looked at a 346,000-square-foot building located at 2500 Heinz Road in Iowa City, which it would likely use as a hub where orders are prepared for delivery to  local customers as Amazon builds its own delivery network.

This could be a great opportunity for this progressive community to embrace Amazon and help to further solidify its positive economic and lifestyle reputation that it continually garners from various media outlets and national rankings.

It would also build upon the economic foundation created by our region’s autonomous driving capabilities, and foster the burgeoning ed-tech sector and the gig economy.

Landing Amazon could be more of a challenge than it appears at the outset, however. The company has become a target for liberal activists, in part due to its inflexible work rules, and in part due to studies by groups like the Economic Policy Institute questioning the economic benefit of its centers.

The most obvious example of the Amazon challenge was New York’s stunning rejection last February of a nearly $3 billion incentive deal to attract one of Amazon’s two massive HQ2 (second headquarters) facilities.

Iowa City is not New York City, and a project here would not compare in scope or incentives to what was planned in the Empire State. Nevertheless, given Iowa City’s record of political activism, we would hope that if a local Amazon deal emerges, it will not be made a political football.

As Mr. Nolte said, many industries are being disrupted. We can work towards embracing this disruption or we can fight a losing cause.

Engelmann & Shriver project

The CBJ aptly described Eric Engelmann and Steve Shriver as powerhouse entrepreneurs in the Aug. 5 edition. They are partnering to reinvigorate an old venue above Brewhemia in Cedar Rapids’ NewBo district that will be called the Olympic South Side Theater.

Mr. Engelmann is the founder of Geonetric and the Iowa Startup Accelerator, and Mr. Shriver is the founder of Eco-Lips and several other entrepreneurial ventures.

We’re betting that if anyone can make this venture work it will Mr. Engelmann and Mr. Shriver, and that it will be another community gem in the burgeoning NewBo area. •