Amazon’s world headquarters campus, located in Seattle, WA.
Photo credit: SeaRick1 / Shutterstock
For months, 20 cities across North America have been excited about the prospect of Amazon opening a second headquarters in their backyard. For the finalists, there are numerous things to be optimistic about. The arrival of Amazon would mean tens of thousands of new jobs, plenty of stimulation for the local economy, and lots of good publicity. But according to The New York Times, leaders in these cities are also considering the potential downsides.
Seattle serves as a perfect test case in that regard. Amazon is the biggest employer in the city, providing jobs for 50,000 people as well as a great deal of wealth. But there’s also an excessive amount of traffic throughout the metro area, as well as the problem of Amazon’s employees squeezing the affordable housing out of the region. The Times noted that there’s been a construction frenzy, yet there still isn’t enough real estate to keep up with the demand.
There’s a growing sense that while Amazon has made Seattle what it is, it’s also caused numerous municipal problems.
“I think they feel in Seattle they’re the scapegoat every time there’s an issue in the community and traffic,” said Sam Bailey, vice president of economic development at the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation.
This recent debate has added a layer of complexity to an already challenging search for a second Amazon HQ site. The company named its 20 finalists way back in January, and it has spent the last four months visiting cities, hearing presentations, and negotiating possible locations. Amazon has a long “wish list” of what it wants to see from the perfect city—a stable government, convenient airports, recreational opportunities for employees. But it’s now becoming clear that the cities have wishes of their own.
In Denver, local officials are talking about how Amazon can assist with public transit options and the creation of bike lanes. In Atlanta, they’re looking to make sure longtime residents aren’t priced out of their homes by the real estate rush. Officials in Toronto are concerned about the long-term direction of the labor market as well as the affordability of housing.
City leaders have every right to be concerned. Bringing a successful corporation to town has all sorts of benefits, but the drawbacks are certainly not to be overlooked.