There should be no more poaching of private companies with public funds.
November 13, 2018 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Amazon's HQ2 to be split between New York and Virginia, with a smaller hub in Nashville [The Verge] “Amazon has announced that its second US headquarters will be split between two cities, with smaller-than-expected offices in the New York City borough of Queens and the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia. The announcement caps a year of deliberations that saw over 200 frenzied proposals offering billions in incentives to the e-commerce giant. Amazon had promised 50,000 jobs and $5 billion of capital spending for the so-called HQ2, which will now be split equally between the two chosen locations.”

• Amazon’s HQ2 Spectacle Isn’t Just Shameful—It Should Be Illegal [The Atlantic]
“Every year, American cities and states spend up to $90 billion in tax breaks and cash grants to urge companies to move among states. That’s more than the federal government spends on housing, education, or infrastructure. And since cities and states can’t print money or run steep deficits, these deals take scarce resources from everything local governments would otherwise pay for, such as schools, roads, police, and prisons. In the past 10 years, Boeing, Nike, Intel, Royal Dutch Shell, Tesla, Nissan, Ford, and General Motors have each received subsidy packages worth more than $1 billion to either move their corporate headquarters within the U.S. or, quite often, to keep their headquarters right where they are. New Jersey and Maryland reportedly offered $7 billion for HQ2, which would be the biggest corporate giveaway in American history.”
• The backlash is already mounting over Amazon's choices for HQ2 [NBC]
““New York and Washington are like other big cities, facing housing poor and rent poor populations,” said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a national policy group promoting corporate and government accountability in economic development. "People are spending bigger chunks of their income renting and this is going to only make pressure for housing affordability worse." “If you’re going to drop 25,000 people making more than $100,000 a year in a hot housing market, it is inevitable,” he said. “If local officials are not very intentional about attaching strings to this deal, including affordable housing safeguards and transit improvements, it is going to be very hard” for residents already trying to get by in those cities, he said.”
• Why New York and D.C. should tell Amazon to take a hike [The Week]
“This is bad for everyone except Amazon. What exactly is this supposed to achieve for Washington and New York? Both cities' unemployment rates are already near or below the national rate. They are both already high-pay, high-education hubs. And both are already straining under booming populations and sky-high housing prices that Amazon's arrival will only exacerbate. New York's subway system in particular is already plagued by delays, budgetary neglect, and a host of other problems. Washington's metro is not quite as bad, but it's lost ridership amid shutdowns and long-delayed upkeep, even as the city's economy has boomed and its snarled traffic problem has gotten worse. Both cities also have a significant homelessness problem, not to mention broader affordability issues, which are bound up with the housing costs Amazon will further juice.”
posted by Fizz (100 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
I basically agree with the Atlantic link, but at the same time I was kind of hoping that the HQ2 thing might remind Silicon Valley and "coastal elites" that there are interesting cities in the rest of the country. But no, NYC and DC. What a stupid spectacle.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:55 AM on November 13, 2018 [18 favorites]


“equally”
posted by ardgedee at 9:56 AM on November 13, 2018


Well, congratulations NYC and Arlington. Hope you enjoy your extra traffic and rent increases. I'm just so happy that my fair city didn't "win" this stupid contest although I'm still mad at our local governments for offering to give away the store in secret negotiations.
posted by octothorpe at 9:58 AM on November 13, 2018 [22 favorites]


Amazon also just announced a competition for HQ3. It is rumored that it is seeking tax breaks to set up offices in every living room in the US. Critics say this is just ploy to get Alexa into every home. Other critics point out that it's a tax and cash grab leveraged by utilizing the underutilized home office space.
posted by loquacious at 9:58 AM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


“So, what will "Amazon" do to Northern Virginia and New York City, two communities already struggling?

- Skyrocketing housing costs
- Working class exodus
- Services stretched beyond capacity
- Tens of thousands on the street

We know cause it allready happened in Seattle.”

Brokers are saying they’re allready selling units en mass via txt message as property owning private equalty firms sell blood.

What’s going to happen when the subway is unusable and no one who actually works in the city can afford to live there? Is it going to be Singapore? Where the working class is outsourced entirely? When will the speculation stop? When Boise is an expensive as Manhattan? What’s the end of this treadmill given that people need a place to sleep and food to eat?
posted by The Whelk at 9:58 AM on November 13, 2018 [37 favorites]


Anyway, Nationalize Amazon. It’ll be kinder then the alternatives.
posted by The Whelk at 10:01 AM on November 13, 2018 [24 favorites]


Every year, American cities and states spend up to $90 billion in tax breaks and cash grants to urge companies to move among states.

I'm reminded of Ferguson, MO, home of Emerson Electric, a $20b company with $15b annual revenue, a town that was so cash-strapped the city generated revenue through the imposition petty fines and fees. - " a Department of Justice report found its court system to be operating with the express purpose of "maximizing revenue.""
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:10 AM on November 13, 2018 [12 favorites]


I work in Crystal City. I grew up in Seattle. Many of my coworkers are honestly thrilled, and I'm baffled by it.
posted by mosst at 10:10 AM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I got this email first thing this morning:
The team I'm supporting is looking for Sr. Software Engineers / Technical Leads to drive both technical architecture and design as well as innovate in the product offering space.

Our team at Amazon is responsible for building the world's largest product selection.
We sit at the core of Amazon’s retail business. We are the reason that Amazon stays ahead of the curve and provides the broadest set of products to satisfy our customers’ shopping needs.

We use the latest technologies: Apache Spark/DynamoDB/Hadoop/EMR/Hive/Presto etc., to build tools and systems for the retail business.

Please let me know if you'd want to be a part of this exciting team here in New York.
posted by octothorpe at 10:14 AM on November 13, 2018


Crystal City? Crystal City?? There is no “Crystal City.”
There has only ever been National Landing.
posted by the sobsister at 10:17 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


Crystal City sounds like someplace I'd expect to battle a Pokemon gym leader. Just saying.
JEFF BEZOS USED CORPORATE GREED. IT WAS HIGHLY EFFECTIVE.
posted by Fizz at 10:18 AM on November 13, 2018 [31 favorites]


First off: lol, everyone you want to hire has read "The Everything Store". Good luck find 25k people who want to work for you and your "2 pizza meetings" and your bullshit vesting schedule.

My place business (everybody's favorite fruit company!) has done this (decided to house thousands employees at two new locations) at least once since I started in 2014. Know how we did it? We rented/built a bunch of office space, put hundreds/thousands of highly paid employees there, and then didn't tell a fucking soul.

Yeah, a bunch of people moved from Infinite Loop to Apple Park, and that was super public, but I'd bet no one can guess where else we've recently put whooooole bunches of people. In fact, one of the areas doesn't even have our logo on the buildings. The other one has a store on the bottom floor, so yeah the logo is there but I'd bet the customers don't know about the people up above them.

I'm not saying tax breaks or whatnot weren't involved (who knows), and perhaps we shopped the deal around to different cities. However, we didn't turn it into months/years of "Let's Make a Deal" and embarrass ourselves and the cities.

Also, I say "at least once" up above because just like our products, where people actual work is also shrouded in secrecy, even internally. I just happen to visit these two locations. We might have built 5 new campuses for all I know.
posted by sideshow at 10:26 AM on November 13, 2018 [14 favorites]


So which of our new progressive legislators is working on kicking Amazon out of New York?

Seriously fuck everything about this.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:31 AM on November 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


Oh I am grateful that it isn't going to be Toronto. The housing crunch here is already horrible. I do not envy those areas. Poor Queens.
posted by wellred at 10:31 AM on November 13, 2018 [13 favorites]


sideshow, what you describe manages to be AT LEAST as creepy as what Amazon is doing, but in a completely different way! How innovative.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:35 AM on November 13, 2018 [25 favorites]


Huh. Arlington is my hometown, I'd be curious to know if they went into the giveaway frenzy. County government has traditionally been very small c conservative financially and liberal socially with well-planned growth, and they weren't exactly desperate for new business as far as I know. Possibly the state did it for them?
posted by tavella at 10:39 AM on November 13, 2018


One reason why I was pretty sure crystal city was a shoo-in because Arlington (and Crystal City specifically) has a high office vacancy rate (22.7% in 2017), mostly because of military and federal offices closing from BRAC and other GSA office realignments. The crystal city offices are also pretty old buildings, built in the 60s and 70s (WaPo link), and the whole area was a poster child for corporate concrete architecture, although it was probably one of the first areas that tried to build an integrated transit/work/live hub. JBG Smith has been purchasing the buildings from the (formerly) Charles E Smith company, and doing major street level renovations, with tons of new murals and "tech-friendly" amenities. They have a huge new plan (National Landing!) to connect Pentagon City, Crystal City and Potomac Yard into one connected community, including more metro stations and entrances and increasing transit. For this reason, I'm a little less concerned about traffic in the area, since there used to be way more than 25, 000 people working in those buildings. I am concerned about housing and schools, because although there is a lot of housing being built, it's not enough to keep up with the current rate, and Arlington is currently on a school building binge, since the number of students attending keeps going up every year. I'm also hoping that Arlington County gets the money they're putting in ($23 million from hotel taxes?) back so the future budgets aren't as dire and they can get more affordable housing in the county.

All that on top of the fact that Bezos has a house in DC and owns the Post. That's why I'm pretty sure Northam lowballed the VA bid, because he knew that the other factors would be a big plus for the area. New York proposed 1.86 billion, Virginia $819 million. This also means that they aren't building a lot of new buildings, which is a plus in my book.

And this is my favorite mural that went up in the past few years.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 10:40 AM on November 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


I work in Crystal City, so imagine my surprise to wake up and see that not only is Amazon taking over that neighborhood but renaming it by fiat. Charming.

Oh, and also it's going to make my (45m-1:15, depending on traffic) commute even worse, and likely put the nail in the coffin for me ever buying a house unless I change careers to one that allows me to live at least 90 minutes away from DC, so that's just put a real spring in my step today.

(The Virginia agreement, incidentally, does not require the state to appropriate money to give Amazon, and instead allows Amazon to terminate the contract unilaterally if it doesn't receive that money – which is a right it already has, subject to a five-day notice. So guess what I'll be asking my local candidates for the state House and Senate next year!)
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:42 AM on November 13, 2018 [10 favorites]


Reached for comment, Jeff Bezos shouted "Dance for me, my puppets! Dance!" and waltzed frenzily around the room as if to an invisible tune.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:44 AM on November 13, 2018 [9 favorites]




And now Amazon knows precisely how much dick each of those 200 cities is prepared to suck.*

* pardon the vulgarity, but if the shoe fits...
posted by klanawa at 10:44 AM on November 13, 2018 [11 favorites]


Amazon had promised 50,000 jobs and $5 billion of capital spending for the so-called HQ

Hey, let's check in on the most recent extremely high profile time a company swore on a stack of Bibles that it was going to add tens of thousands of jobs if only governments would give it massive tax breaks, Scott Walker with Foxconn in Wisconsin. Oh, wait, they keep slashing the number of jobs they'll actually put there but the tax breaks are still the same, so it's going to be $200,000/job or worse.

OK, so maybe that didn't work out so great, but surely overall economic growth combined with Trump's tax cuts will heat up the job market. Oh, wait, the 1000 largest public companies actually cut 70,000 jobs net after promising to ramp up hiring.

I dunno guys, it kinda seems like rich people and companies who stand to get tax breaks lie a lot about how many jobs they actually create, not to mention the salaries and working conditions of those jobs. But I'm sure Mr. Bezos isn't going to do that here.
posted by Copronymus at 10:45 AM on November 13, 2018 [28 favorites]


Yeah, a bunch of people moved from Infinite Loop to Apple Park, and that was super public, but I'd bet no one can guess where else we've recently put whooooole bunches of people

I thought Austin, for one, was pretty publicly known. And I really really thought that was going to be where Amazon stuffed HQ2 just for the poaching^H^H^H^H^Hsynergy.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:48 AM on November 13, 2018


Here's how we need to change the messaging on this. Most people, against all logic, believe the premise that jobs--any jobs--are good, and that giving tax breaks to corporations to move, and therefore create jobs, is a good and useful tactic, since the jobs created will eventually generate more economic activity, and more taxes in turn.

What actually seems to happen, though, is that the new jobs and economic activity rarely recouperates the initial tax breaks, and in the case of Amazon, the jobs have historically depressed local wages. The larger pool of lower-wage employees of these big corporations further rely heavily on the local social safety net to survive. [Not sure what's going to happen now that Amazon has a purported minimum wage of $15. I imagine that in the labor markets of NYC and DC, that sum isn't significantly higher than wages in comparable positions.]

So the new message needs to be: Why should working people pay Amazon's taxes for them, when they are making enormous profits? Giant corporations are coming to get you to pay for their operations while they keep the profits. Tax cuts for them mean you'll have to make up the difference. Bezos will suck all those dollars out of your schools, police, roads, emergency management, etc.

Who am I kidding, no one in our liberal media will actually critique capitalism this way, but this is the only way to break the Job-Creators' spell. Those jobs aren't a favor to the local populace, they're a way to extract and privatize wealth.

Where I live, there was an attempt by our all-Republican local government to offer Bezos an $8 million tax break to expand Blue Origin. 1. Blue Origin already has a presence here. 2. We've got the fucking launchpads. [Our location makes us one of the few places with existing launch infrastructure, and they wanted to go begging?] 3. Jeff Bezos has enough damn money. I'm convinced the only reason it didn't fly was the 2 Tea Party loons that probably opposed it because they heard Bezos was a liberal. [They routinely make bizarre statements about "leftist hate groups," which probably means the tiny local Indivisible group.] But the fact that these same people have cut funding for seniors, children, environmental mitigation, public transit and infrastructure to the bone, and they thought nothing of serving up more of our tax money to one of the richest dudes on the planet for no reason should have had people out in the streets with pitchforks.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 10:48 AM on November 13, 2018 [10 favorites]


Seen on Twitter: “HQ2 split among two cities gets them twice as many senators.”
posted by saul wright at 10:56 AM on November 13, 2018 [33 favorites]


Perhaps that was a factor in them not locating in DC itself, since we have no voting representation in Congress.
posted by exogenous at 10:57 AM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Ohhhh thank goodness they're not coming to Boston!
posted by ChuraChura at 10:59 AM on November 13, 2018 [14 favorites]


To put it into perspective, there are four buildings wrapped in cloth murals in crystal city right now. They are all EMPTY. I'm not happy about tax breaks for corporations, but it would be good for those buildings to be used for their main purpose, instead of building new ones.
posted by Hermeowne Grangepurr at 10:59 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


David Dayen, In These Times: The HQ2 Scam: How Amazon Used a Bidding War to Scrape Cities’ Data
But the biggest suckers on HQ2 aren’t New York and Virginia; it’s the other 236 cities that bid on a headquarters they were never going to get. Those bids didn’t just include the size of the bribe; they included a wealth of important data about plans for transportation, housing, education and workforce development. Amazon now has a treasure trove of non-public information about America’s future, in addition to knowing how much cash cities are willing to part with to land an Amazon facility. And it got all that, along with a giant PR benefit from the bidding war, for free.

If you knew a city was going to build a road in a particular place, you could make a lot of money buying up the real estate there. Imagine that on a national scale and you can see how Amazon will grow far wealthier from the data it collected than even the raw dollars extracted from HQ2’s big winners. In fact, this was the real reason Amazon orchestrated the whole charade.

Amazon can now go back to every city that put in a bid and offer a warehouse or data center or satellite office for one of its 16 subsidiary companies. The company will have significant leverage in those negotiations, because the other side has already made an initial offer. Just as important, Amazon can set up operations with the foreknowledge of what cities have divulged to them. It can build its convenience stores or bookseller outlets where cities have planned rapid development and population growth. It can locate its warehouses where a new highway expansion is imminent. It can shift knowledge jobs to areas where universities will soon be built and high-tech education projects funded.

It can even potentially sell this data to other companies who long for similar deals, or at least start up a new business line in negotiating deals between companies and municipal governments. [...]

We already know that Amazon runs on data—from its customers, its suppliers, its cloud computing clients—to increase its power. It can anticipate what shoppers want from the purchasing history. It can see what third-party products are selling on the site, and replicate them. Now it can make money off of knowledge about the future of cities. There was no reason for elected officials to fall for this game. But they have been lured by the promise of jobs—in many cases a false promise, as studies show that corporate welfare subsidies are usually not worth it—into handing a goldmine over to Amazon.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:00 AM on November 13, 2018 [53 favorites]






It's really weird to me how many DC homeowners seem to be thinking this is some immediate boon to them. Are you planning to move to a different region soon? Otherwise your property values are going up along with everyone else's, which generally is just going to mean a higher tax assessment.

I guess if you're wealthy and own multiple properties this is probably good for you, but if you are just in the "own the house you live in" category I'm unclear how you benefit.

I don't really have strong feelings about this otherwise - it was going to go *somewhere,* and Crystal City is already a soulless eyesore, NoVa is already aggressively full of lobbyists, government/military contractors and megacorps - I'm sure Amazon won't improve the situation, but it's uncertain how it will change my actual life in DC proper.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:14 AM on November 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


I've lived in Queens for 15 years, although not LIC. I'm absolutely livid about this. The Queens subways are already strained to the breaking point, and will get worse as soon as they finish the work on the Hudson Yards on the far west side of Manhattan. Don't even get me started on what this is going to do to the residents of the Queensbridge Houses, a housing project in LIC. This is going to be an unmitigated disaster for Western Queens. I wouldn't have expected anything different from Cuomo, but until recently I had higher hopes for DeBlasio.
posted by holborne at 11:15 AM on November 13, 2018 [16 favorites]


Yeah, Crystal City isn't a bad pick from an infrastructure perspective. The government moved 17,000 people out of that area and into government-owned buildings (often without Metro access, which was shameful, but the deed is done now), leaving a ton of empty office space. Some of the buildings got converted into condos, some are being used for short-term and flex space, but it has a notoriously high vacancy rate. I lived there before they moved all the govvies out and it felt much more bustling and urban (at least during the day) than it does now, although it has started to recover of its own accord. Amazon will bring it back slightly above the density it had at its peak as Pentagon overflow offices, but not that much. And it is served both by Metro and VRE (heavy commuter rail). Not a bad pick, but it's not some brownfields Superfund hellscape that requires incentives to get a company to move into, either. The advantages should have been enough to lure a company to locate themselves there without any scale-tipping, and I think they would have in time. Having Amazon there precludes whatever that natural growth might have otherwise been, and undermines Amazon's claims that it's bringing in jobs that wouldn't otherwise exist.

What's shameful about the whole thing is the obvious bait-and-switch that Amazon pulled, calling it "HQ2". It's not a "second headquarters", it's two satellite offices. They will always be second-tier to Seattle, and nothing to be especially proud of.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:16 AM on November 13, 2018 [11 favorites]


Oh whew, and my condolences to VA and NY. Local scuttlebutt suggested that one of the sites offered up by our city was less than a mile from my house. It was a long shot, but it's still irritated me ever since.

They're supposed to release the terms of the would-be offer soon. Which will give me fresh things to be irked about, what with the "jobs at any cost" rhetoric out there.
posted by cage and aquarium at 11:18 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


i've been screaming into the void all damn day. tax breaks are BAD. society RUNS ON TAXES. huge international zillion dollar corporations should be PAYING CITIES for the privilege of setting up shop there. taxation is meant to BENEFIT SOCIETY and not to pay off billionaires. the sky is BLUE. water stubbornly remains WET. i will CONSUME THE FLESH of the rich. why is this factual information so alien to so many people. humanity is bad. where is the ELE asteroid. i am ready.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:23 AM on November 13, 2018 [84 favorites]


Canadian cities dodged a bullet. Phew!
posted by Yowser at 11:32 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


And good point above, these HQ2s are where they'll pack employees that are treated as second class and disposable, and will have no real decision making abilities.

Lots of teleconferencing.

Desperate attempts at job competitions at the real HQ that will be stifled because of moving expenses.

Yeah I'm not bitter
posted by Yowser at 11:38 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


> Oh I am grateful that it isn't going to be Toronto.

Hear, hear. One creepy tech takeover/giveaway is plenty, thanks.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:38 AM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


Very curious to see what concessions Arlington got/gave regarding WMATA funding/buildout.

I guess it's better than another fucking stadium.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:39 AM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Hoo boy that Toronto google/sidewalk project is a doozy. Eric Schmidt is on record for a talk about that one saying what a shame it is to have workers in a post slavery world.
posted by Yowser at 11:42 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


If you knew a city was going to build a road in a particular place, you could make a lot of money buying up the real estate there. Imagine that on a national scale and you can see how Amazon will grow far wealthier from the data it collected than even the raw dollars extracted from HQ2’s big winners. In fact, this was the real reason Amazon orchestrated the whole charade.

Ah In These Times are so optimistic about how city planning works. Data on a city's supposed long range plans are useless. Why? Because long range planning at the city level is pure bullshit. Since moving to Chicago in 2012 I have heard of I think 4 different plans for mega developments (10K-20K units) just on a single chunk of land just south of the loop. I've heard of 2 plans so far for an abandoned Steel Plant site on the North side in the last 3 years. there is a giant hole in the ground where the tallest residential building in North America was going to go from a decade ago. The city has barely control over what happens anyway. They don't own the land, they can barely interfere with development unless they want a bunch of lawsuits.

BRT in the loop was a nice big exciting planned experiment. Did you bet on it? Then you lost money because by the time the city processes were done with it they managed to build something that all of disadvantages of a bus line coupled with the disadvantages of fixed tracks traveling for too short a distance to matter even if they didn't fuck it up.

City plans are far far less reliable than the even worst laid plans of mice and men.

Amazon collecting valuable planning info could maybe lead to this kind of advantage in other more organized, efficient and statist countries but not in America. Here there is strategic planning security achieved via never having an actual strategy beyond the next term other than campaign promises.
posted by srboisvert at 11:44 AM on November 13, 2018 [10 favorites]


Only bonus I can see to Sidewalk in Toronto is Americans learning to pronounce "quay", which I had to do after some hilarity when I moved here.
posted by wellred at 11:45 AM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, a bunch of people moved from Infinite Loop to Apple Park, and that was super public, but I'd bet no one can guess where else we've recently put whooooole bunches of people

Sunnyvale?
posted by MikeKD at 12:17 PM on November 13, 2018


I used to live in Astoria. Granted that was 14 years ago and I'm sure things have changed a lot, but this is going to fuck Queens up hardcore.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:21 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Hold on, the fuck, it's going in Astoria specifically? So one Amazon installation is going where I work, and the other where my sister lives?

This is starting to feel personal.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:22 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Long Island City.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:25 PM on November 13, 2018


Hold on, the fuck, it's going in Astoria specifically? So one Amazon installation is going where I work, and the other where my sister lives?

No, in Long Island City, a bit south and west of Astoria. But elsietheeel is right; it's going to fuck up the whole borough, largely because the infrastructure there can't support it. And of course, for a while now, Queens has been one of the few places in the City you can afford to live on a normal salary. That's about to change, swiftly.
posted by holborne at 12:26 PM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I work in Crystal City, so imagine my surprise to wake up and see that not only is Amazon taking over that neighborhood but renaming it by fiat.

Apparently prompted by but not directed by Amazon. Rather it was proposed by the localities because the bid included "Crystal City, the eastern portion of Pentagon City and the northern portion of Potomac Yard."

Also, from the NYT: In Superstar Cities, the Rich Get Richer, and They Get Amazon: New York and Washington are leaving the rest of the country behind. Companies like Amazon explain why. "Tech companies feed on highly educated and specialized workers, specifically dense clusters of them where workers and companies interacting with one another are more likely to produce new ideas. 'In that sense...' Mr. Muro said, 'There wasn’t really an alternative.'"
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:31 PM on November 13, 2018


Tech companies feed on highly educated and specialized workers, specifically dense clusters of them where workers and companies interacting with one another are more likely to produce new ideas. 'In that sense...' Mr. Muro said, 'There wasn’t really an alternative.'"

Uh huh. Because, as everyone predicted, the internet is a terrible way of communicating with people remotely.
posted by Melismata at 12:33 PM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Ohhhh thank goodness they're not coming to Boston!

Boston already has a relatively massive Amazon presence - a huge hunk of AWS and professional services employees, and most of the Alexa team.
posted by scolbath at 12:54 PM on November 13, 2018


I have many thoughts.
  • I wonder1 if ANY of those state governments that promised to give away the store to Amazon will instead invest that promised "free money" in their own people and public institutions.
  • Those low-income black and brown families who have been living in Southeast DC for generations? They can probably say goodbye to their homes and their history, because they're about to be forced out.
  • Maybe DC turning into a richer, whiter city will finally convince Congress that the District should have full voting rights in Congress. (That's sick, yes, but I'm not even being sarcastic.)
  • Many of us living in the DC Metro region have noticed a sharp curve to the pro-business, anti-people Right in the Washington Post Editorial Board's views on local politics since Bezos bought the paper.
1 I do not, in fact, wonder.
posted by duffell at 1:06 PM on November 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


Well, maybe it really did come down to where Jeff Bezos has a home. Thanks to other mefites for explaining why Crystal City makes sense. I am still puzzled by going to Queens. There is a lot of other places that have talent and frankly, it would have been easier to get the whole congressional delegation of other states which would be very much about getting jobs in oh like, Kansas or even West Virginia. An Amazon HQ would create its own gravity well for talent. Now, the agism is interesting because that is prime geeksploitation age if all they want is 20-somethings. Any age group after that is not going to be impressed with "crunch time" and free pizza or all the glitz of urban life.

I guess what I am saying is that if it was political influence like Toyota did in the Southeast then choosing two east coast locales does not make full sense to me. If it is about talent then my reply is that one, there is plenty of talent that exists in other locations than the coasts and two, talent moves to where the jobs are located. If it is about amenities, I would argue that amenities follow the jobs which get you the customer base and revenue. There were plenty of mid-size cities that would have accommodated Amazon.

It is a pity that one cannot get a chance to read the final analysis reports of one location over another. I can speculate on why a place like Minneapolis/St. Paul did not get it due to winter though it had other things going for it but that is pure speculation and I would like to more fully understand the decision process.

About the giveaways by municipalities, well once you have seen the obscenity of sports stadiums and subsidies seeing it done for Amazon is not a shocker. One of the most enraging things to me is the subsidies to billionaire sports team owners who threaten to leave the city unless they get a TRILLION dollar stadium. Dammit, public libraries which get used more than 8 game days for a football stadium can't be opened all week. I fucking enjoyed voting against all the city council members that voted for the baseball stadium. So I view Amazon's shakedown as pretty par for the course. Anyone remember all the ball licking when Boeing decided to move its headquarters? Just to prove the case that the Stockholm Syndrome is long and strong.
posted by jadepearl at 1:20 PM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Serious question: what is the scale of 25000 new jobs, ~$100k average annual salary, in NYC? This is already a city full of highly-paid professionals; it seems to be one of the few places in the US which can absorb an influx like this. (This is also why I'm puzzled why NYC even bothered with a bid. It's not like it needs more jobs, and as Google and Facebook have proven with their large offices here, it's already attractive enough to tech companies without offering special tax breaks.)
posted by airmail at 1:22 PM on November 13, 2018


Choosing DC and NYC, of all the possible cities they considered, shows that this was only ever about power. They don't need the tax subsidies and I doubt those really played much of a role. The key thing these companies/megalomaniacs want is access to the levers of national and world power, and DC and NYC are exactly where you situate yourself for that -- just as Bezos similarly decided when buying his residences. Next stops are therefore probably Amazon "HQ" London, Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.
posted by chortly at 1:24 PM on November 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


Many of us living in the DC Metro region have noticed a sharp curve to the pro-business, anti-people Right in the Washington Post Editorial Board's views on local politics since Bezos bought the paper.

I agree with the rest of your points, but I'd put that particular issue largely on the shoulders of Fred Hiatt (and Marty Barron) - Bezos has been hands-off with the Post. I mean, his involvement in *anything* is suspect at this point, but I haven't noticed the Post being anything more than its centrist, pro-development self since the Bezos acquisition. Sadly DC in general has been steadily tacking in that direction, from Bowser to the "Prince of Petworth."

To chortly's point, yes, it's all about power. For Amazon to expand much further requires things like the cold-spec DOD cloud service contract. That kind of expansion in turn requires that they not be broken up a la Ma Bell, nationalized, or regulated much.

They are already lobbying the shit out of the govt, and this move just makes it easier.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:38 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Serious question: what is the scale of 25000 new jobs, ~$100k average annual salary, in NYC? This is already a city full of highly-paid professionals; it seems to be one of the few places in the US which can absorb an influx like this.

In terms of the DC HQ2 branch anyway, I don't think this will actually be noticeable. It sounds like what the Amazon workers will be making is comparable to other white collar workers in NOVA, what any office tenant around here would be paying in salaries. And when Crystal City lost those 17K government jobs recently, it caused somewhat of a budget crisis for Arlington (for the 2019 budget), so I think this will probably just bounce the budget back to more or less where it was, and without requiring any new infrastructure or maybe even office space to be built, etc. I'm not especially happy about where the HQ2 is going because I commute through the area (Alexandria/Rosslyn) and the traffic forms a nightmarish quagmire every day, but this seems like somewhat of a non-event. Albeit an extremely hyped one, which is why I think that people are acting all intrigued -- they just are getting caught up in the whole "And where will Amazon goooooooo?" bullshit that Amazon has been relentlessly spinning over the past months. I'm also happy about the budget likely bouncing back because it means there will be more public money for things I actually care about, like local public media stations and stuff. Arlington had to slash that stuff when it lost that 17K-job tenant, so in that sense, it's a relief not to have the space sitting vacant.
posted by rue72 at 2:07 PM on November 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Without checking the latest stats (don't shoot me), $100K is about, roughly, 1.5x the median NYC household income.

I would wonder if this wasn't some kind of weird conspiracy with the landlords of the big downtown Brooklyn rental towers they can't fill, except it's not exactly easy to get from there to LIC by transit.
posted by praemunire at 2:14 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


LOL, the government of Virginia is contractually obligated to keep up its end of its deal with Amazon until September 30, 2042, but Amazon can dump it "for any reason or no reason" with all of five (5) business days' notice.
posted by Copronymus at 2:17 PM on November 13, 2018 [10 favorites]


Ah In These Times are so optimistic about how city planning works. Data on a city's supposed long range plans are useless. Why? Because long range planning at the city level is pure bullshit.

Not only that, it's long-range planning at the city (/state) level being spun by the city (/state) PR department. New Hampshire's bid hyped our commuter rail link that's going to be built between Manchester to Boston. Which our governor has not exactly been enthusiastic about.

Any concrete information is going to be publicly available, and online in a format that's much, much easier to process and go through. My relatively small city in NH has online GIS property maps, tax maps, zoning maps, etc., not to mention minutes from the zoning and planning board meetings.
posted by damayanti at 2:19 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


We might have built 5 new campuses for all I know.

Well, there's AP2 on Wolfe and Central, which basically looks like a discount Apple Park. There's a lot just north of SJC that was acquired, just down the street from the Paypal HQ. The blacksites are probably registered via shellcompanies, but the Austin location is pretty obvious considering onsite interview coordinators put their address in email when scheduling with candidates. Plus, it's pretty hard to recruit into the state if you don't mention it at all on the jobs website.

Or if you want to know where the datacenters are, Foursquare checkins are pretty great for leaking that kind of information. Paramedics and pizza drivers tend to not be signed to NDAs I guess.
posted by pwnguin at 2:56 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I am still puzzled by going to Queens.

I hope this helps.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:01 PM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


LOL, the government of Virginia is contractually obligated to keep up its end of its deal with Amazon until September 30, 2042, but Amazon can dump it "for any reason or no reason" with all of five (5) business days' notice.

The replies to that tweet
are pretty choice.
Well, at least it's 5 *business* days.

> With Prime, it’s as quick as TWO
posted by duffell at 3:15 PM on November 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


The replies to that tweet are pretty choice.

Well, at least it's 5 *business* days.

> With Prime, it’s as quick as TWO


Nah they would just mark it as delivered at the very end of the second business day. It will actually show up on the third business day.
posted by srboisvert at 3:23 PM on November 13, 2018


So, is there any organized movement against this kind of deal? It seems like one of those arms races where no locality/state is gonna stop unilaterally, but the whole thing is bad for everyone but the companies. Planet Money did an ep on the phenomenon in MO and KS (I think) a while ago, which left me wondering the same thing. How would we even begin to approach it?
posted by DebetEsse at 4:02 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


How would we even begin to approach it?
Take over Congress from the GOP,
take over Congress from the DNC (since they aren't about to speak against this),
create a compact banning these sorts of deals
posted by CrystalDave at 4:05 PM on November 13, 2018


organized movement against this kind of deal

The biggest issue is that there are so many flavors of this kind of deal. Tax breaks? Allocated new taxes from proximate development? Free land? Expedited permitting? Resource rights? Transportation investments? Bag of cash left in side alley? (I came by way of Somerville) Etc, etc.

It is an old tactic:

emerged in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th century, when there was charter competition among states to attract corporations to domicile in their jurisdiction. Some described the concept as the "race to efficiency", and others, such as Justice Louis Brandeis, as the "race to the bottom"
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 5:14 PM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


EYEROLL and F. U. to the municipalities that enabled this bullshit. Oh and a hearty non-abbreviated FUCK YOU to Bezos
posted by mwhybark at 6:41 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


As in Seattle, the big effect is the soaring cost of housing caused by an influx of more high wage earners. This could be ameliorated by requiring that for each new cubicle or office, that they be required to construct a housing unit. This is pretty standard requirement for auto parking -- they must supply a certain number of parking spaces per office unit. They could make the same sort of requirements for housing units.

This doesn't mean that Amazon itself needs to get in the housing business. It could be implemented as a cap and trade system like carbon. Amazon could purchase housing credits from apartment building developers. But it would mean that Amazon can't just push its rising housing and rent problems on others. It would have to pay its own way if it wants to create 25,000 more jobs in an already tight housing market.
posted by JackFlash at 6:46 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


So, is there any organized movement against this kind of deal? It seems like one of those arms races where no locality/state is gonna stop unilaterally, but the whole thing is bad for everyone but the companies.

This is a situation in which companies like Amazon exploit a race to bottom as each city competes to give greater subsidies to billion dollar companies.

The way to prevent this race to the bottom is at the federal level. You could create a corporate tax that treats local subsidies as income and tax it as income. This is similar to the way the tax code currently treats a cancelled or forgiven debt as income. Cities could compete to give billions in tax subsidies, but those subsidies would be considered cancelled or forgiven local taxes and treated as income at the federal level and taxed accordingly.
posted by JackFlash at 6:56 PM on November 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


they must supply a certain number of parking spaces per office unit. They could make the same sort of requirements for housing units.

In Arlington? No, the motto there is a 'car-free diet' They're also pretty foot-draggy about affordable housing as well. It's gonna be a shit-show.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:44 PM on November 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


The blacksites are probably registered via shellcompanies, but the Austin location is pretty obvious considering onsite interview coordinators put their address in email when scheduling with candidates.

I might be about to make a fool of myself and there's some super secret Apple office in Austin, but they do have a sign.
posted by hoyland at 7:47 PM on November 13, 2018


LOL, the government of Virginia is contractually obligated to keep up its end of its deal with Amazon until September 30, 2042, but Amazon can dump it "for any reason or no reason" with all of five (5) business days' notice.

At-will state.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:51 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


They are all EMPTY. I'm not happy about tax breaks for corporations, but it would be good for those buildings to be used for their main purpose, instead of building new ones.

*glances over at Seattle nervously*

I, err, probably have bad news for you. You might want to sit down. Actually, no, stand up. Look, if you see any tower cranes going up, just run and don't look back.
posted by loquacious at 8:07 PM on November 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


"Under agreement between Amazon and Virginia, the commonwealth will give the company written notice about any FOIA requests "to allow the Company to seek a protective order or other appropriate remedy""

I work on commercial agreements in the public sector (albeit nothing anywhere near this order of magnitude) and these types of clauses are not uncommon. Public records laws are pretty clear about what has to be disclosed and what can be redacted, and there's usually a mechanism by which companies can seek protective orders for their confidential information. This usually doesn't mean that the company gets to determine what does and does not get disclosed under public records laws, it just means that the company will be given notice prior to disclosure in order to allow them to use the mechanisms in the law.

I'm willing to place a jaundiced eye on this because Bezos and Amazon have enough money to pressure the state into bending the laws in ways the hoi polloi like us will never know
posted by Existential Dread at 8:43 PM on November 13, 2018


Here’s Why New York Is Resorting to Paying Amazon $3 Billion for What Google Will Do for Free
Of course, Gov. Andrew Cuomo argues you shouldn’t think of it this way at all. “It costs us nothing,” he said at a press conference Wednesday – since, he contends, we are only foregoing taxes we wouldn’t get at all if Amazon didn’t come here in the first place. He says we will make back $9 for every $1 in tax foregone, give or take.

The problem with this analysis is it assumes all the economic activity we’re buying with the subsidy package wouldn’t happen without the subsidy package. And that’s not true. Google’s impending expansion in Manhattan – where it will develop a campus nearly as large as the one Amazon plans – shows a mega-tech firm might locate here even if you don’t give it billions of dollars.
posted by homunculus at 10:01 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


As a New Yorker, this news reinvigorates my hate of Amazon and everything else too
posted by Kemma80 at 10:10 PM on November 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


The LIC office is horrendous news. Affordability in the area is already not great… and did I read that Cuomo is actually giving them a tax break? May Cynthia Nixon feast on your liver, you cryptkeeper-looking geezer.

In summary, I called my city councilor's office and texted the biggest protestor-activist I know at 10am this morning saying “holy cats are there plans to stop this?!”; crowdfunded punji sticks for everyone involved with enabling it; fuck fuck fuckity fucking fuck; Ⓐ.
posted by Haere at 12:57 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


My place business (everybody's favorite fruit company!) has done this (decided to house thousands employees at two new locations) at least once since I started in 2014. Know how we did it? We rented/built a bunch of office space, put hundreds/thousands of highly paid employees there, and then didn't tell a fucking soul.

It is the Del Monte way.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 3:36 AM on November 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Pennsylvania offered up to $4.6 billion to Amazon for HQ2
Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit promoting accountability in economic development, has criticized the types of incentives that were offered by Pennsylvania.

He refers to them as “paying taxes to the boss.”

“Instead of just lowering the company’s income, property or sales taxes, this scheme would have effectively meant that some of the state personal income taxes paid by Amazon HQ2 employees would not end up in the state treasury,” he asserted. “Instead, those dollars would flow to Amazon — presumably without the knowledge or consent of those HQ2 employees.”
posted by octothorpe at 4:52 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


We rented/built a bunch of office space, put hundreds/thousands of highly paid employees there, and then didn't tell a fucking soul.

I have to push back on this. Cities know who is moving into their office space- to say you didn't tell a soul means you didn't make a public announcement. Apple also takes public incentives for their new buildings when they can get them - like $200 million for 50 jobs for a datacenter in Iowa
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:19 AM on November 14, 2018


If you knew a city was going to build a road in a particular place, you could make a lot of money buying up the real estate there.

Just as a reminder this was Judge Doom's scheme in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
posted by Servo5678 at 7:28 AM on November 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


It's so frustrating that so many Democratic officials were so enthusiastic about giving billions of public money away to one of the biggest companies in the world.
posted by octothorpe at 7:49 AM on November 14, 2018


I never thought I'd find myself giving in to NIMBYism, but given that I can walk to the proposed HQ2 site in Montgomery County, MD, from my house in about 20 minutes, and know what this would have done to traffic here... I went around with a grin all day yesterday.

I don't intend to move, and i in fact don't consider my place to live and love in an "investment" in that sense, so increased property values don't mean jack to me except for trouble affording property tax, and to the vast majority of my neighbours neither.

Sorry, Arlington. At least from the comments here, the infrastructure hit will be gentler there?
posted by seyirci at 9:03 AM on November 14, 2018


It's so frustrating that so many Democratic officials were so enthusiastic about giving billions of public money away to one of the biggest companies in the world.

This was a big part of the reason I gave Tim Kaine as Veep pick the side-eye in 2016.

Please please I'm not trying to start RLTP. Still voted for Hill. Don't @ me.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:13 AM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm cautiously optimistic/ neutral for Arlington, after spending way too much time yesterday reading the releases and looking at the plans from the Arlington, Alexandria, and Virginia.

The initial sites are existing, under-utilized office buildings, and the proposed to-be-constructed buildings are on sites that the local community has been discussing for years now. It looks like at least the initial plans are in-line with what the community has been asking for. Much of the transportation infrastructure, such as the additional Metro entrances, have already been proposed by the local planning board, assessed for feasibility, but then postponed due to lack of budget. 25,000 new jobs is not unreasonable for the area, especially since some portion of them will be filled by people who already live and work in the region, and the neighborhood was developed for much higher occupancy than it has now.

The new Virginia Tech campus is an interesting development. The immediate area specified is mostly auto-repair type places, so this feels like an improvement. I do think that the quirky residential area adjacent to it is in trouble.

I have to look more into the financial promises and their impact, and I'll want to know more about the plans for traffic mitigation, since it's already a busy, easily disrupted corridor. And the impact on rent could be bad with the projected housing shortage. There are a few public hearings scheduled in the near future, so we'll see.
posted by oryelle at 10:54 AM on November 14, 2018


Anyone in Nashville or TN have any opinions on what will mean for that city?
posted by Apocryphon at 11:04 AM on November 14, 2018




Is it clear how much of the incentives Amazon is getting are specific to Amazon? Looking at the deal with New York City, it seems like 1.2 of the 1.8 billion mentioned above is coming from the Excelsior Jobs Program, which applies to companies in all sorts of industries, including agriculture and music production, for example. Though I guess even if this particular part of the incentive isn't specific to Amazon, it seems like it could be that this is a very unpopular program (I haven't heard of it until today tbh).
posted by chernoffhoeffding at 11:36 AM on November 14, 2018


Western Queens can absorb significant growth. Huge swaths of Northern Boulevard, Queens Boulevard, Astoria Boulevard and Roosevelt Boulevard ... core commercial territory that is extremely-well-transit-served ... are 1-, 2- and at most 3-story developed with plenty of large surface parking lots and giant car dealerships with acres of lots. Without changing the density of the residential neighborhoods behind those streets one bit you can add vast amounts of office and housing space. Tax-increment financing on that new commercial development can fund more frequent trains if you are worried about subway congestion.
posted by MattD at 11:45 AM on November 14, 2018


It's so frustrating that so many Democratic officials were so enthusiastic about giving billions of public money away to one of the biggest companies in the world.

The lesser of two evils is still evil.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:47 PM on November 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Nationalize Amazon (The Outline)
posted by The Whelk at 8:29 AM on November 15, 2018


A commentator on Democracy Now mentioned that Amazon's more profitable business is renting cloud data storage, and that many of their military tech clients are based in and around the Pentagon. Amazon already has a whole bunch of data centers located in that hood, I just glanced at an interesting essay by Ingrid Burrington about them.

I'd agree with anyone suggesting that Amazon was planning to move there all along.
posted by ovvl at 10:06 AM on November 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


Western Queens can absorb significant growth. Huge swaths of Northern Boulevard, Queens Boulevard, Astoria Boulevard and Roosevelt Boulevard ... core commercial territory that is extremely-well-transit-served ... are 1-, 2- and at most 3-story developed with plenty of large surface parking lots and giant car dealerships with acres of lots. Without changing the density of the residential neighborhoods behind those streets one bit you can add vast amounts of office and housing space. Tax-increment financing on that new commercial development can fund more frequent trains if you are worried about subway congestion.

MattD, I'm going to go ahead and guess you don't live in Western Queens. Because everything you say here is...optimistic, shall we say.
posted by holborne at 10:55 AM on November 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


For example, I present you with this: NYC's Amazon deal will boot 1,000 public school employees from offices

(It's Roosevelt Avenue, btw, not Roosevelt Boulevard.)
posted by holborne at 12:37 PM on November 15, 2018 [4 favorites]




NYC subway entering “death spiral”

The projected MTA deficit is roughly 2/3 of the tax break New York gave to Amazon.

Everything about this is so gross.
posted by The Whelk at 1:39 PM on November 21, 2018 [3 favorites]


Did you know you can fax Coumo’s Office about the amazon deal for free? Well now you do.
posted by The Whelk at 6:07 AM on November 27, 2018






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