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When Amazon decided it would be opening a second headquarters in a to-be-determined North American city in 2017, over 238 cities submitted themselves to the tech giant, lured by the assurance of tens of thousands of high-paying jobs and billions investment. Amazon’s requirements were not all that complicated: a metro-area population of over one million people, a stable business environment, proximity to major highways and arterial roads, and access to mass transit and an airport. In fact, many cities (St. Louis included) are yearning to meet these demands anyway, and not just to attract the biggest company on the globe, but to better support the workforce that they already have in place, and to enhance their community by drawing in smaller, more diverse companies that could equal Amazon’s impact, despite not being quite as flashy.
As Eillie Anzilotti explains in her fastcompany.com article, “The Modern Workforce is Freelance—Cities Should Get Ready,” the energy that these cities are putting forth to attract Amazon could also be used to support a strong freelance workforce and startup community. In the U.S. right now, there are approximately 53 million freelancers, making up around 36% of the total workforce, and by 2027 that will increase to include the majority of Americans, if the current trends hold steady. And the strong foundation desired by corporations like Amazon would do just as well providing a basis for a freelance/startup community in more mid-sized cities. Cities like St. Louis.
St. Louis, a predominantly manufacturing town for the majority of the 20th century, is slowly rebuilding its workforce identity, and a major part of its transformation focuses on attracting freelancers and startups. Its approach of luring early-stage startups and independent workers is a strategy that is diversifying St. Louis’ business culture. And the affordability of living there is a huge pro for new entrepreneurs and freelancers looking for a place to settle.
As the American workforce evolves into one that leans heavily on freelance workers, cities will need to start investing more proactively in an infrastructure that supports these types of workers now. The city that eventually wins the bid for Amazon’s new HQ will undoubtedly reap the benefits, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the cities don’t have the potential and the means to create a new, vital support system for the future. And the future is freelance.