Retorts: Abe Lincoln and Amazon’s HQ2

THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL in Washington D.C. (Washington.org).

I am a great believer in failure.

Oh, yes, winning gets all the good press, but I’d wager to say that, over time, losing benefits you more than winning. Stay with me on this.

Chances are pretty good that when you first tried to walk, ride a bike, catch a ball, build a sand castle, you failed. You fell, tipped over, dropped it and stepped on it. But that’s how you learned what to do better next time. Winning right away can make you overconfident, strip you of humility and set you up for an early demise.

If you’ve ever tried to pick up a cat by the tail, well, you certainly acquired useful information, which you will never forget. Spit into the wind, forget your significant other’s birthday, eat a mouthful of jalapenos … all those work toward making you more successful the next time around.

This is all in reference to something that Garden Grove, in partnership with Santa Ana, is now attempting. The two cities have jumped into the scrum to attract the planned $5 billion second headquarters for Amazon. Whichever city gets this gem of an opportunity will benefit from measureless economic and cultural perks and will become a key part of the nation’s future in its partnership with one of the world’s largest and most innovative companies.

As you likely know, Garden Grove owns the 101-acre Willowick Golf Course site, which is located right across the city limits in Santa Ana. That’s the focus on the two towns’ admittedly long shot campaign to win this glittering prize.

Of course, long shots sometimes pay off. Walt Disney originally wanted to locate his amusement park in Burbank. The Dodgers wanted to build a domed stadium in Brooklyn. George Bush (the older one) trailed in the polls by 17 points at one juncture in the presidential race.

But even if a cruel reality kicks in and HQ2 ends up in Austin or Hartford or Raleigh, think of the advantages that might still accrue to our two local suitors. At least, Garden Grove and Santa Ana will get more experience in working together on projects of mutual interest.

Santa Ana, for example, is now paired with Garden Grove on the OC Streetcar project that will link the two communities. Santa Ana has impressive plans for renovating Harbor Boulevard right up to the city limit with the Big Strawberry. The potential for cooperative progress could be limitless.

Any heat that is generated by the Amazon proposal puts Garden Grove (and Santa Ana) in the conversation for other projects and development. It establishes this partnership as a team with the ambition to “go big.”

Garden Grove is a community that has long labored under an undeserved inferiority complex. There’s no beach, Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm or complete college campus here. No glitzy enclosed mall – although that might not be a bad thing – and no picturesque rolling hills.

Consequently, local dreams have been modest, although that’s changed somewhat with the development of the hotel row on Harbor. “Not ready for prime time” has been the mindset of many.

But now there is leadership that’s willing to throw deep, swing for the fences and audition for the lead role. Win or lose, the experience alone can be worth a fortune in knowledge gained and exposure earned.

Abraham Lincoln was a big loser. A business failure, a failure in romance, beaten in most of his political efforts, he nevertheless became one of our greatest presidents. So it’s OK if we dare greatly and fall short. That’s the way to win the next time, and the time after that.

Jim Tortolano’s Retorts column appears on Wednesday.


Leave a Reply