Former Amazon whiz: ROC in the running for HQ2

Adam Interviews

For the last 6 years, Nicholas Wilt lived and breathed Amazon.

He and his wife, Robin, made Seattle their home and as a “Principal Engineer,” Wilt worked on Amazon’s offsite data storage, or cloud, before moving back home to Rochester earlier this year.

“Amazon is an exhilarating place to work if you’re a technical person,” Wilt said of his former employer.

When Wilt heard Amazon was looking for a second headquarters, Wilt instantly thought Rochester would make a near-perfect site for a company that embraces frugality.

“The data leads you here,” Wilt said.

He says Rochester offers short commute times, low cost of living compared to coastal cities and universities that pump out a stream of business- and digital-minded talent.

But Wilt says Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will also consider the “soul” of the community and he says that is where Rochester will distinguish itself from the more than two hundred other cities and regions vying for the headquarters.

“I think Rochester is going to hold up very well,” Wilt said before citing Rochester’s link to Kodak and civil rights.

Wilt did not seem sold on the decision to pitch Rochester within a joint regional bid with Buffalo saying Amazon might find Rochester appealing on its own.

“Rochester is a quirky city, but in this context that is not a liability, that is a strength because Amazon prides itself on being what they describe as peculiar,” he said.

The prospect of Amazon picking Rochester prompted Wilt to start a website and Twitter account to convince people of Rochester’s very real chances.

Asked where in Rochester he would take an Amazon team, Wilt said he’s take them to the “Let’s Have Tea” bronzed sculpture of Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass in Susan B. Anthony Park.

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