Will Amazon's new headquarters help or hurt communities? | The Tylt
After a year-long search, Amazon initially announced two cities that would be home to its new headquarters, or HQ2 and HQ3. Over 200 cities vied for the title, hoping Amazon's HQ2 would bring new jobs, infrastructure and economic growth. In February of 2019, Amazon decided not to move forward with its HQ location is Long Island City, Queens. Many are glad to see Amazon go, while others lament the loss of thousands of jobs and economic development. What do you think?
Will Amazon's new headquarters help or hurt communities?
In February of 2019, Amazon announced that it would not move forward with its Long Island City location for HQ2. The New York Times' J. David Goodman reported on the statement released by Amazon:
For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term...a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.
The calls from New Yorkers and the city's politicians have been answered: Amazon is unwelcome.
After over a year of searching, Amazon announced the cities HQ2 hoped to call home. The company originally picked two locations, both on the East Coast: Long Island City, New York and Arlington, Virginia. Amazon reported on its blog:
Amazon will invest $5 billion and create more than 50,000 jobs across the two new headquarters locations, with more than 25,000 employees each in New York City and Arlington.
Amazon’s investments in each new headquarters will spur the creation of tens of thousands of additional jobs in the surrounding communities. Hiring at both the new headquarters will begin in 2019.
'We are excited to build new headquarters in New York City and Northern Virginia,' said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon. 'These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities.'
By the end of the race, 238 cities placed bids to be chosen for Amazon's HQ2. Local governments across the country pushed to win over Amazon executives in the hopes that HQ2 would bring better transportation and affordable housing.
Having an international tech giant stationed in your backyard means more jobs for your citizens and more attention brought to your community. Change is inevitable, but in the long-run, there's no question that Amazon's presence in any city would lead to economic growth.
According to CNN's Joe Parilla:
Amazon's presence will have a gravitational pull on other companies, spin off new businesses, and create demand for local suppliers.
Amazon's massive footprint will also create opportunities for local businesses in the winning city that do everything from food preparation to event planning to legal services. City officials should establish a mechanism to connect Amazon to local suppliers as the company considers procurement and vendor decisions at the new headquarters.
For universities in the surrounding areas, the new Amazon HQ2 is great news for current and future students. Amazon's new locations will also encourage greater STEM learning for students in elementary, middle and high school in these areas.
Parilla also points out that New York planned to "intentionally [leverage] Amazon to further broaden goals related to education and skills, innovation and industry, and neighborhood development," according to the city's own proposal.
Many people worried that the new Amazon HQ locations will bring growth that these communities are not ready to sustain. But Amazon took current and potential growth into consideration when making its decision; both Long Island City and Arlington are already experiencing rapid growth–growth that a large tech company could supplement, rather than derail.
According to CBS News's Jason Silverstein:
Once a sleepy industrial area on the East River, Long Island City has rapidly expanded in the past decade, with more than 12,000 apartments built there since 2010 and thousands more in development, according to a 2017 study by the housing listing service RENTCafé.
And as ARL Now writes to its citizens:
Critics of the county’s courtship of Amazon have long feared the impact that thousands of highly paid workers arriving in the region could have on everything from home prices to school overcrowding. But Arlington leaders have often countered that the region is experiencing dramatic growth at the moment, and seems set to see even more in the future, meaning that Amazon’s arrival might not seem especially out of place.
But for many in the New York and northern Virginia communities, Amazon's announcement came as unwelcome news. Understandably so, many worried that current citizens will be passed over for jobs, housing prices will skyrocket and already-strained public transportation will turn into a greater nightmare.
Analysts are also pointing out that Amazon's "contest" for HQ2 was a scam from the start, saying the process was less about finding a new home and more about collecting data on 238 cities' growth plans for the next 20 years. Amazon can now adjust its business accordingly to be a part of said growth. CNN's Kaya Yurieff writes:
Amazon skillfully obtained data from 238 cities and metro areas in North America for free, including proprietary information about real estate sites under development, details about their talent pool, local labor cost and what incentives cities and states were willing to cough up to bring the company to town.
This perspective certainly makes Amazon seem like more of a villain. CNN's Jill Filipovic takes this theme of exploitation and zooms out to the big picture:
Amazon–and any big company–isn't going to save American workers. They're going take what they can, and many will exploit where they can. Which is exactly why we need robust protections in place now to make sure that formidable companies work for the American public as much as their employees work for them.
One Seattle Times columnist wrote a letter warning the new Amazon HQ communities of what's to come. The writer, Danny Westneat, paints a bleak picture, saying residents are about to face a "prosperity bomb." According to Westneat:
It’s the perfect phrase, as it covers both the yin and the yang of what’s about to happen to you. The riches, the jobs, the thriving and striving. But also the aftershocks that can forever alter your community.
In your city, the blast radius will also inexorably consume a string of hundred-year-old diners, dive bars and legendary mom and pops that 'just couldn’t keep up' with the boom. In its place come the new and sterile; our restaurant scene in the Amazon Jungle was recently compared to an airport food court.
Westneat makes Seattle seem wiped of all personality–traded in for money, chrome and big tech dreams–and Amazon is to blame.
Politicians are also getting involved in the conversation. The newly-elected Queens representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, noted in a tweet that, "Displacement is not community development. Investing in luxury condos is not the same thing as investing in people and families. Shuffling working class people out of a community does not improve their quality of life."
Amazon's many promises of billions of dollars invested in the HQ2 communities are undercut by the billions of dollars in "performance-based" tax cuts it expects to receive. Residents of Long Island City feel that this money would be better spent in their community. According to CNBC's Jacob Pramuck:
In a joint statement, state Sen. Michael Gianaris and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said 'it is unfathomable' that New York would offer Amazon billions of dollars in incentives when 'our subways are crumbling, our children lack school seats, and too many of our neighbors lack adequate health care.'
'Too much is at stake to accept this without a fight,' they said. 'We will continue to stand up against what can only be described as a bad deal for New York and for Long Island City.'