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Massachusetts’ Amazon bids: Shouldn’t everyone be working together?

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All risk losing separately

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Bids to host e-commerce giant Amazon’s second headquarters are due October 19, and myriad Massachusetts regions and areas are tossing their respective hats into the ring.

Entrants include Boston proper; a coalition of Haverhill, Lawrence, and North Andover; and western Massachusetts. What’s more, the state has committed to helping communities craft and bolster their bids for the HQ.

But wouldn’t everyone be better served working together?

That western Mass. bid, for instance, is actually tacked on to one that Enfield, Connecticut, is organizing, meaning that an entire region of the commonwealth is throwing in its lot with an entirely different state.

The biggest challenge that Massachusetts faces in landing Amazon could very well be its geography, a vestige of colonial villages and squares growing into cities and towns—and a reticence to assemble a lot of them together under one big civic umbrella.

No one community—not even Boston, the state’s largest municipality—can really host the whole HQ itself. Amazon is envisioning up to 8 million square feet with 50,000 employees. That’s not going to fit in any one area unless the e-retailer builds way up rather than out (as it has done with its initial HQ in Seattle).

And building up is not the easiest thing to do in Boston, so it’s probably got to be building out, into several new towers or one giant tech campus, if the city does land the headquarters.

As for elsewhere, those bids are bereft of certain amenities that Amazon said it wanted in its new HQ—including a major international airport and world-class universities. The former can be found only in Boston and the latter in only a handful of cities and towns, especially Cambridge (given Amazon’s bent, M.I.T. would seem a natural feeder school and research partner).

Imagine if the state were coordinating one grand bid for Amazon, making use of all these resources spread out in our geographic patchwork.

The e-retailer might in the end pick one of these local communities and the state will be able to take some of the credit. But, should Amazon take a pass on all Massachusetts comers, it might be because, separately, they didn’t check all the boxes.