Why Amazon And Charlotte Are A Great Fit

The Iron Project works with organizations all over the nation, but our home is in the Carolinas, where the F3 and FiA workout movements originated earlier this decade in Charlotte, N.C. This week, TIP is partnering with the Carolina Fintech Hub and the University of North Carolina Charlotte’s Center City campus to host a community event aimed at generating input into the city’s bid for Amazon’s 2nd headquarters.

As part of the publicity for the event, Iron Project co-founder Tim Whitmire wrote an op-ed piece for The Charlotte Observer that explains his inspiration and how it ties into the origins of F3 and FiA. We share it here as an illustration of TIP’s commitment to putting the leadership principles developed in F3 and FiA -- in this case, “reverse-flow incubation,” the notion that the best ideas are found at the grass roots -- to work in creative ways throughout our communities. Please contact us if we can help your organization!

When I think about why Amazon should bring its second headquarters to Charlotte, I think about Freedom Park in the summer of 2008.

That’s where I was welcomed into a group of men – all but one a stranger – who gathered early every Saturday morning for a group workout. Two and a half years later, one of the men I met there, Dave Redding, and I launched a spin-off to offer free workouts to more men – and started a movement that spread throughout the city, region and nation.

F3 Nation now offers 1,200 free workouts a week in 22 states, from Wrightsville Beach to Amazon’s hometown of Seattle.

I tell this story not to get you to a workout (although we’d love you to join us or our women’s spin-off, Females in Action!), but to make a point about Charlotte: I don’t know any city in this nation where F3 could have taken off as spectacularly as it did here.

Among the factors that worked in our favor:

  • The social fluidity that comes from being a melting pot of largely relocated people makes Charlotte open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.
  • While a big city, Charlotte is still easily traversed and not atomized into isolated suburbs like many larger metros. This was a huge factor in F3’s growth.
  • There’s an inherent conservatism to Charlotte that keeps us from chasing shiny objects. Put another way, only in Charlotte could you sell doing pushups in the mud and pre-dawn darkness as the Next Big Thing in fitness!

All those factors – and more – are reasons why Amazon would be a great fit here, and why Charlotte would be a great fit for Amazon.

I lived in cities and towns on both coasts and in Kentucky before my wife Sarah and I moved to Charlotte in 2000. We stayed and have raised our three children here because of the factors I mentioned above and more: geography; setting; affordability; infrastructure; and economic opportunity. Your personal mileage may vary on any one of those, but they’re all part of a big picture that has made Charlotte a boomtown for more than 30 years.

F3 has always been about using a workout to build community, so when I think about why Charlotte’s right for Amazon, it’s not in terms of tax incentives or available land. It’s about what we as a region of 2.4 million people offer to Amazon and what having Amazon here would do for this region.

A couple weeks ago, I had the idea to hold a community event about the Amazon proposal – an opportunity for individuals to discuss why Amazon should come here. I’m grateful that the Carolina Fintech Hub and UNC-Charlotte’s Center City campus have shared that vision.

This Wednesday morning, we invite everyone from the community to join us at 8 a.m. for HiveStorm: Amazon 2HQ Community Summit. The folks from the Fintech Hub will help attendees break into small groups to make their best cases for why Charlotte is right for Amazon. The Chamber will consider the session’s results for inclusion in their final proposal to Amazon.

Beyond 50,000 jobs and an estimated $5 billion in investment, the social and intellectual capital that Amazon would bring to the region offers a chance to take a great city and accelerate our corporate culture, leadership, educational system and infrastructure into mid-21st century prominence.

Please join us Wednesday and help us send a message to Seattle with your ideas and your enthusiasm for Charlotte.

Tim Whitmire