Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"How Seattle Fell Out of Love With Amazon" (AMZN)

From CityLab:
It’s been nearly two months since Amazon served notice that it’s ending its exclusive relationship with Seattle and looking to see other cities on the side. Since then, the mega-retailer has received 238 bids for HQ2, its proposed second headquarters. These are places that are volunteering to pick up where Seattle left off, becoming a “full equal” with a headcount of 50,000 jobs, many of them superbly well-paid.

These events have caused the following reactions in Seattle: Pick one!
  1. Good! Now my rent will stop going up.
  2. Widespread panic
  3. Widespread panic, but just in government
  4. Recrimination, but just against government
  5. All of the above except b.
Answer e is correct—with an emphasis on panic in government.
Specifically, the counties surrounding Seattle ran after Amazon like obsessed teenagers. They made their own bids for HQ2—this one and this one.

And why? Because local governments needed the tax dollars that Amazon fed into city, county, and state coffers. This region has some expensive problems, including astronomical rents and home prices, crippling traffic, the displacement of people of color, and spiking homelessness. Greater Seattle needed to keep the Amazon boom going, to buy time to address the long-festering problems that boom had exacerbated.

“Prosperity allows us to raise the funds to correct the problems from the past,” King County Executive Dow Constantine told reporters when his county’s bid was announced. “The notion that less economic activity, fewer jobs, more poverty is somehow going to benefit us because housing prices might flatten out is, I think, self-defeating.”

That was a moment of genuine insight. Exactly how much tax Amazon pays to local governments is a state secret, known to only a few.

But now we know that, despite the millions that have flowed to local governments in the Seattle area from Amazon, that money isn’t believed to be enough to pay for all the problems the company’s growth caused. Constantine is saying Seattle will need much more of it if we want a chance to solve our housing shortage and public transit crisis.
And that’s not happening: Since a senior Amazon executive told a tech conference that the Seattle region had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning HQ2, we’re going to have to admit that it’s really time to wean ourselves off our Amazon addiction.
Was there ever anything we could have done to save the relationship and remain HQ1 and Only? I turned to the internet to find the signs we should have known our relationship was in trouble.

Little things start to add up
In a relationship, you’re not supposed to keep score. You’re supposed to let the little points of friction go, in favor of the greater good of the relationship.

That stopped happening in Seattle.

It was about four years ago that I heard my first “Amazon employees are getting all the houses” story. It came from a businessman whose sunny disposition is famous around town. And wow, was he bitter.

Amazonians starting hearing those things too. They got their own version of the Seattle Freeze—that cold social shoulder Seattle gives to newcomers. But this was out-and-out talking smack, in coffee shops, at parties, and in the media....MORE