Amazon Expands, Now Has Hold on Both Coasts

Amazon announced on Nov. 13 the highly-anticipated locations of its two newest headquarters. The major mogul will now have locations in Crystal City, Va., and Long Island City, Queens, N.Y. in addition to its original headquarters in Seattle. Supporters as well as critics of Amazon’s growth have been quick to share their views.

The decision process for the new locations was long and competitive. According to the New York Times, Amazon narrowed down a selection of 238 competing regions to a pool of 20 in December, and then just two this November. 

Illustration By Ben Murphy

This process was not one-sided, as cities vied for the chosen status. Potential cities offered billions of dollars in tax incentives. Some incentives required states to propose alterations to their tax codes and new legislative measures that could liquidate funding for Amazon, or, allow Amazon to direct the spending of tax-payer dollars. According to Fortune.com, the greatest publicized offers were Newark, N.J., which offered $7 billion and Maryland, which offered $8.5 billion. Additionally, Illinois proposed to return all employee income tax back to Amazon. 

Ultimately, Amazon settled on Crystal City and Long Island City, pocketing an approximate $3 billion in tax subsidies from New York. In exchange, Amazon will bring 250,000 jobs to each location and will likely stimulate economic activity in the regions and create adjacent jobs through the development process.

These locations were strategic, if predictable. According to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, “These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come.” 

Not only will Amazon have direct access to an employee pool fed by the East Coast “university-belt,”  but it will also be proximal to Wall Street and Washington, D.C., where it can exert its economic and political sway, appeasing shareholders and deep-pocketed politicians. Indeed, many predict that Amazon will use its D.C. ties to increase its lobbying power. 

Supporters say these location picks are in the best interest of shareholders and make strategic sense for the growth of the company. However, the process of location selection and the social and economic implications of the headquarters have many worried and frustrated.

Tom Stringer, head of site selection for the business consulting firm Binder Dijker Otte stated in an interview with the New York Times that, “[Amazon’s choice] only reaffirms and cements the idea that we have two countries right now, the coasts and the interior.” 

Amazon had the opportunity to invest in and use the potential of central or midwestern cities such as Columbus Ohio, Nashville Tenn., and Louisville Ky., but it bypassed these cities in favor of already-established economic and political centers. 

There is also apprehension concerning the changes the new Amazon headquarters will bring to the locations, specifically Queens. Housing prices will increase, likely creating housing insecurity for previous residents. Case in point, Seattle’s median housing price has grown to $770,000, and they now have the third-highest rate of homelessness in the U.S. With a change in housing, the gentrification effects that now characterize Brooklyn may also transpire. 

According to Politico, other critics have found fault with the notable absence of an oversight role for the New York City Council, Amazon’s anti-union record, and its talks with ICE about facial recognition technology. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Representative-elect for New York’s 14th District, has taken charge of organizing an opposition to Amazon’s development plans in Queens. 

Besides the major economic and social tidal waves the new headquarters will release on their respective regions, this publicized and highly contended selection process might indicate a paradigm shift in corporate economic deals. 

Ultimately, Amazon is preforming its expanse; not only are Amazon products widely consumed, and its venture into the food market via Whole Foods readily accepted, but its business deals with cities grab major headlines, thoroughly integrating the company into the forefront of the American psyche. Indeed, a three-location centered corporation of this scale is in many ways unprecedented. Amazon has shown that now, coast-to-coast, it will hold considerable sway in the nation’s major economic hubs.  

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