When the biggest retailer in the world announces the location of its massively anticipated new headquarters, the news is bound to cause tremors. And so it was this morning with Amazon’s decision to set up massive new operations in New York City and in Crystal City, Virginia, as well as a slightly smaller office in Nashville, Tennessee.
It dominated the headlines, the sheer enormity of the initiative almost too stunning to comprehend–a small city’s worth of new jobs (at least 20,000 per city) and a small country’s worth of tax incentives (at least $2.4 billion). It also generated a tidal wave of vitriol. Once some of the details of the three deals started to emerge, the sheer scale of the handouts to Amazon outraged critics on the left and right.
Here are some of the most forehead-slapping aspects of the deal:
- Arlington, Virginia, is reportedly raising taxes to pay Amazon to move there–the company will get a $23 million cash grant over 15 years based on an increase in the local tax on hotel rooms. (UPDATE: A rep for Arlington Economic Development tells Fast Company that the incentive “does not use any existing or projected revenue in the County budget, adding that the incentive comes from a percentage of the “incremental revenue from the Transient Occupancy Tax,” which is paid by tourists and business travelers on hotel rooms.)
- By next year, Amazon will get $33.4 million from New York in return for creating only 595 jobs (since the fine print of the deal shows that the company is only obligated to create 85% of the jobs promised, 700 in this case during 2019)–and that includes temp jobs (since the agreement only calls for jobs with a minimum of 35 hours per week for not less than four consecutive weeks).
- In total, New York is expected to give Amazon close to $3 billion in subsidies, which includes $1.7 billion from the state and $1.3 billion from the city.
- As part of its agreement with Virginia, the state will give Amazon written notice of any Freedom of Information Act requests filed by pesky reporters and other citizens–“to allow the Company to seek a protective order or other appropriate remedy.”
- Amid lots of concern over overcrowding on aging transit systems in both metropolitan areas due to an influx of new Amazon employees, one detail struck many as particularly galling: New York and Virginia will use public money to pay for helipads for Amazon in both new locations.
- Amazon convinced Crystal City, a neighborhood of 22,000 people south of Washington, D.C., to change its name to National Landing (chosen to reflect its proximity to Reagan National Airport and the nation’s capital).
- Amazon announced that it’s donating space for industrial businesses, a school, and green space in Long Island City–but those projects were all going to happen anyway as part of a development announced back in the summer of 2017.
- It wasn’t just today’s “lucky” winners that gave hefty handouts to Amazon. That’s because the 235 losing proposals–representing cities and regions from 54 states, provinces, and territories–turned over lots of valuable demographic data for free, data which Amazon can use to make all kinds of decisions about how to sell you and your neighbors even more stuff you don’t need in the future.
- And this last, final, infuriating detail–careful, don’t slam your head too hard against your desk:
With today's HQ2 incentives, Amazon has now received at least $3.8 billion in taxpayer incentives since 2012.
At the same time, Jeff Bezos's personal wealth has grown by $36 billion just so far this year
— Mike Rosenberg (@ByRosenberg) November 13, 2018
This story has been updated