Today is the deadline for cities to propose their bids to Amazon in hopes of hosting their new headquarters. The ever-growing corporation promises “up to 50,000 jobs paying an average of $100,000”, and cities all over the United States and Canada want this boost in their economy. All of the cities making a bid can be found here. But what price will these cities pay to get it? Corporate subsidies, or breaks on taxes and other concessions, is what city governments use to entice a company into setting up operations there. Is this big spending worth it for the long-term gains? Now that Amazon has been in Seattle for over 20 years, what effects has it had on the city?
Cities vying for Amazon’s headquarters are hoping for the company to bring with it high-paying jobs, which means more money spent and local businesses boosted. Amazon has certainly supplied thousands of jobs to Seattle. But some smaller business have gone under as a result, and the Amazon Jungle is seeing an increasingly homogeneous food scene. Property values in Seattle have skyrocketed in recent years, which is good for homeowners, but not for renters being priced out of their own city. Gentrification is plaguing cities across the country, but with income inequality growing at one of the fastest rates in Seattle, it is becoming less affordable by the day. Then there’s the issue of corporate subsidies, which is what cities are offering (in one case up to $7 billion in tax rebates) to Amazon in hopes that it will choose them to establish its second headquarters. This means it’s an investment that cities are making, and one that they hope will pay off down the road. It also puts Amazon in a very powerful position. Because if, in the future, this city decides it’s best to impose a higher tax on Amazon, they can simply go elsewhere, because plenty of other cities want their headquarters just as badly.
As the bidding reaches its close tonight, many Seattleites offer a warning to cities hoping to host Amazon’s HQ2: be careful what you wish for.