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EDITORIAL: The Amazon payoff

Amazon's headquarters in Seattle. Courtesy Photo/Amazon.com


Amazon’s announcement that it will grace some fortunate community with its second headquarters -- a $5 billion palace home to 50,000 employees and the harbinger of innumerable riches -- has set off a frenzy of choose-me bids that rival the awarding of the Olympic games to a deserving community. Count Loudoun County among them.

What community wouldn’t want Amazon? The company has been heralded by some as the most innovative, most admired, most reputable, most-most company in the world. Landing Amazon’s headquarters is a game changer.

In its eight-page Request for Proposals (RFP), Amazon lists the physical and social assets that bidders should meet. The term sheet includes:

--A metro area of at least 1 million people. An international airport no more than 45 minutes away.
--Mass transit service and major highways.
--A highly educated labor pool.
--A strong university system.
--Good cellphone and fiber coverage.
--Abundant and affordable housing.
--A political and social culture that supports a “diverse population” and “overall high quality of life.”

That part of the RFP is a beauty contest. Loudoun doesn’t need makeup to look the part.

But asking it and other communities to make presentations about these factors is just the preliminary judging. Amazon can easily discover and assess a community’s assets without ogling the contestants or putting them through a meaningless talent competition. The customer-centric company didn’t rise to its reputation without paying attention to the data it gathers.

That brings a more pertinent question: What is a community prepared to do for Amazon? Amazon gives the game away on page six of its RFP:

“We acknowledge a project of this magnitude may require special incentive legislation … for the state/province to achieve a competitive proposal.”

That’s code for Amazon extracting as much as it can in subsidies, tax incentives and public grants. In other words, corporate welfare for a company with a market cap of $466 billion.

One of the most successful companies in the world, Amazon has used this tactic before in selecting locations for dozens of distribution facilities and data centers, some of which are located in Loudoun. By playing states and localities against each other for maximum incentives, Amazon has garnered more than $1.1 billion in incentives, according to subsidy-tracker Good Jobs First.

It is hard to know how deep into the public’s pockets Loudoun County and the commonwealth of Virginia might delve. Given the initial response from county leaders, it’s a fair bet that they’ll respond with tax incentives and other public giveaways to land the prize.

It is hard not to get caught up in the enthusiasm over Amazon. But if Loudoun is as fertile a ground for economic development as our leaders tout, should the county acquiesce to a demand for a payoff at the expense of its taxpayers?

Comments


The decision has already been made.  As the editor points out, the RFP process is really the public extortion process.

Same goes for professional sports stadiums.


This a major ripoff in a sweepstakes scam way - this will just bring too many more folks here to crowd our highways and cause a rash building frenzy for both personal places to live as well as more new schools, as well as roads to accommodate all these folks - when we are finally beginning to see light at the end of those tunnels as it is. I don’t see THEM offering any infrastructure monies to help provide with this expectation of theirs. They just want to move in, build, and suck off the Loudoun County (or wherever they move) teet, sucking the life out of our budget that is already straining at its seams for what county and schools claim it needs that it doesn’t have, and taxing us more for this ‘illustrious honor’. Let Amazon move somewhere else, or maybe just stay at their original headquarters and keep operating from there. Save us the aggravation and hassle of such a big, expectant, entity moving here. If they want to move here THEY should be paying US for the right, and some infrastructure projects as well to accommodate that kind of sudden influx. Amazon will ruin Loudoun otherwise. Also, if they expect all that just to MOVE here, imagine what they will want later down the road in order to STAY here. Just not worth all the swimming upstream county budget-and-effort-wise for this endeavor. Tell Amazon ‘not happening in Loudoun County’. Have some sympathy for the people who live here now and some hutzpah to tell Amazon a resounding “NO!”


High quality wireless and fiber service?

Go west of 15 and outside of town and see if you get any service at all—LC has the backbone of the internet and yet there is a goodly number of households that have no or at best dial up speed service.
Let Amazon go somewhere else-we don’t need the overcrowding on the roads, strain on our infrastructure and schools and the vast sums of county resources that will be needed to woo them here. I don’t need my taxes to go any higher to fund a mega-giant corporation.
I view them that same as asking a municipality to fund a super stadium for a professional sports team for a billionaire owner.


This is a great column. There’s all sorts of stories about Amazon’s relationship with Seattle - in short they don’t pay their way while extracting value from the city. Loudoun has 3.2% unemployment, and not enough housing planned for the growth we planned. 50k people would come from somewhere else, either using our roads, our schools, and other community services, while their employer expects a free ride. Not a good deal.


Haha…high quality of life and strong university system also disqualifies LoCo…dream on…


I don’t remember seeing the requirement “Abundant and affordable housing” in the previous article on this subject.

That pretty much disqualifies the entire DC Metro area.  Oh well.

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