Amazon announced Tuesday morning that their much anticipated HQ2 would be split between two locations in New York City and Arlington, Virginia (a suburb of Washington, D.C.). While that came as a disappointment for the other 19 cities that were on the company’s shortlist, it was actually a relief for many residents. You see, this whole Amazon HQ thing has been controversial from the beginning, with some saying the benefits of the 50,000 jobs HQ2 was promising would be far outweighed by the consequences.
First of all, the entire process has been veiled in secrecy, with Amazon giving little info on how they would be making their decision. The company put out the call in September 2017 to cities across the world to come up with proposals for their new headquarters. They received more than 200 applications from cities across North America talking themselves up and offering tax breaks and other incentives for Amazon to bring their business — which most certainly means exponential economic growth — to their areas.
These tax breaks were seriously unheard of (New Jersey offered $7 billion worth) and the other incentives got downright wild (a city in Georgia offered to change it’s name to “Amazon” and name a highway after CEO Jeff Bezos). Toronto’s bid was 190 pages and included letters from Justin Trudeau and then-Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. John Oliver did a whole show on the proposals in November 2017.
Not only would any city chosen for HQ2 have to offer billions of dollars of tax breaks to the company, the addition of 50,000 jobs would mean thousands of new workers moving to the area, raising concerns about the ability of existing infrastructure to handle the influx. In January, Amazon narrowed the list down to 20 finalists, all in the United States except for Toronto.
Much virtual ink has been spilled on the impact the original Amazon HQ has had on the city of Seattle. Two of the main issues that have developed since it’s establishment in 2013 are fast-tracked gentrification, which quickly priced lower-income households out of their own homes and exacerbated homelessness in the surrounding areas, and challenges with transportation within the city as their infrastructure was ill-equipped to handle such increased volume. In order to alleviate some of the transit problem, Amazon invested $1.5 million in the city’s public transit system this year. The investment is a helpful move, but it’s one mostly made to benefit their own workers, not the people they have priced out of the area.
Amazon is already facing backlash from communities in New York and Virginia who don’t want the new HQ2 to exacerbate the existing economic issues in the areas. An influx of jobs can do amazing things for an economy, but growing an area too much too fast can have devastating impacts on the population. Some of the consequences may be minimized by the two locations sharing the HQ2 burden (25,000 workers will report to each location) but that won’t eliminate all negative effects.
My condolences to the people of New York and Northern Virginia, whose states have landed the new Amazon HQs. I’m sure Amazon will also enjoy all the detailed economic, commercial and infrastructure-related intel it got on every other major city & def not misuse that info at all.
— Puff the Magic Hater (@MsKellyMHayes) November 13, 2018
— Ankita Rao (@anrao) November 14, 2018
So if Amazon is splitting its new HQ into 2 doesn’t that mean it will have 3 and that basically this means its original HQ will still be HQ and this whole thing was a publicity stunt and a data-mining operation? Asking for a friend who takes the 7 train.
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) November 13, 2018
according to twtr the only people happy about amazons new hq are cuomo and deblasio
— rat king (@MikeIsaac) November 14, 2018
So, yes, Canada lost out on being the next Amazon HQ, but some say that’s not such a bad thing.