Florida Could Fall Short in Bid for Amazon HQ2 Unless CWA Is A Top Priority in 2018

Tampa, St. Petersburg and Miami-Dade County are currently frontrunners among the 238 cities, counties and regions competing to serve as home for Amazon’s second headquarters.

The Sunshine State, however, may be at a disadvantage when it comes to what is likely to be a heavy bidding war due to its lack of a statewide nondiscrimination law that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

That’s because diversity and quality of life important to Amazon—so much so that as part of the bidding process, the company has requested bidders provide evidence of a compatible cultural and community environment that “includes the presence and support of a diverse population.”  Amazon’s internal Statement on Diversity also emphasizes this way of doing business:

“We believe that diversity and inclusion are good for our business, but our commitment is based on something more fundamental than that. It’s simply right. Amazon has always been, and always will be, committed to tolerance and diversity.”

“We believe that diversity and inclusion are good for our business, but our commitment is based on something more fundamental than that. It’s simply right. Amazon has always been, and always will be, committed to tolerance and diversity.”—Amazon internal Statement on Diversity

Amazon’s commitment specifically to LGBT inclusion can be seen in the company’s history of actively promoting state and federal legislation on equal rights for the LGBT community—legislation that Florida currently lacks.

That puts places like Tampa, St. Petersburg and the Miami-Dade area at a disadvantage to cities in states that have statewide, LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination protections, even as those areas boast some of the strongest local LGBT protections in the state.

“These are two communities that stand up for the inherent rights of everybody, regardless of how you got here, of the language that you speak, of the God that you worship, or who you love. Both of us have been in that fight for a long time. And our communities have prospered as a result of that. And corporations looking at the two of us and our two cities know that their employees if they come here are going to be treated with the same respect regardless of your station in life.” —St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn are even emphasizing these local protections—and the culture of inclusion they represent—in their bid. In a video included in their proposal, they state:

“These are two communities that stand up for the inherent rights of everybody, regardless of how you got here, of the language that you speak, of the God that you worship, or who you love. Both of us have been in that fight for a long time. And our communities have prospered as a result of that. And corporations looking at the two of us and our two cities know that their employees if they come here are going to be treated with the same respect regardless of your station in life.”

Local protections, however, may not be enough to erase the disadvantage that comes from having no statewide law. Lawmakers, however, can get rid of this disadvantage ASAP, by passing the Florida Competitive Workforce Act (CWA), which would ensure that LGBT people who live and work in Florida cannot be discriminated against in employment, housing or public places like restaurants and retail shops.

The FCWA has record support: During the 2017 session, 44% of all legislators, or 70 members, signed onto the bill—yet the measure did not secure a hearing in either chamber. This year, SB 66 by Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) and HB 347 by Reps. Ben Diamond (D-St. Petersburg) and Rene Plasencia (R-Titusville) have been filed.

For the sake of the $5 billion and 50,000 jobs that Amazon could bring to the Sunshine State, Florida Competes is urging lawmakers to make passing these bills a priority during the next legislative session.

If you’re a business owner and you agree that lawmakers must pass the CWA, join the Florida Competes coalition of more than 10 Fortune 500 companies and 450 local businesses across the state.