The disturbing part about Amazon's HQ2 competition

Amazon's short list of contenders for its much ballyhooed HQ2 reads like a who's who of the most economically vibrant...

Posted: Jan 21, 2018 7:18 PM
Updated: Jan 21, 2018 7:18 PM

Amazon's short list of contenders for its much ballyhooed HQ2 reads like a who's who of the most economically vibrant and dynamic cities in North America.

Of the 20 cities still being considered, seven are located in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, with two in New York and three in the DC metro area. The entire list of 20, which includes superstar cities like LA, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Toronto; emerging powerhouses like Miami, Atlanta, Nashville, Dallas and Denver; and smaller metros like Austin, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Indianapolis and the North Carolina Research Triangle, consists almost entirely of the winners of our "winner-take-all" urban system.

But, there's one part of Amazon's HQ2 competition that is deeply disturbing -- pitting city against city in a wasteful and economically unproductive bidding war for tax and other incentives. As one of the world's most valuable companies, Amazon does not need -- and should not be going after -- taxpayer dollars that could be better used on schools, parks, transit, housing or other much needed public goods.

The company would add far more value to its brand by eschewing incentives and instead working with the winner to address challenges like affordable housing and traffic congestion, which its new headquarters is likely to exacerbate.

So, which city is going to have the moral obligation to do what's right?

My own sense is that about five of the 20 cities -- large places with great universities and global gateway airports -- are really serious contenders for HQ2.

At the top of the list, I would place New York, the greatest headquarters city in the world, and DC, the world's power corridor. When I asked Scott Galloway, the author of the book "The Four," where he thought Amazon would place its new headquarters, he simply said: New York, New York, and New York. But, DC is perhaps an equal or even better contender. Because Jeff Bezos already owns The Washington Post, an additional 50,000 Amazon jobs in the DC area might help deflect Congressional attention from his company's monopolistic tendencies. Not to mention, a key predictor of corporate headquarters location is where the CEO has a home. Bezos has homes in DC, Manhattan, and Beverly Hills, which might also explain LA's inclusion on the list.

There is one additional piece of evidence that points to DC and New York. Three separate areas in the Greater Washington area made the shortlist: DC itself, Northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland. And two communities in Greater New York did so as well, New York City and Newark.

For corporate site selectors, like the seasoned group at Amazon the textbook way to extract maximum tax incentives and giveaways is a two-step process. The first step is to first pit metro against metro, like the 20 shortlist finalists against one another to see who will pony up. Once a metro is selected, the second step is to pit communities in the metro against one another. Interestingly enough, each of the communities in both Greater DC and Greater New York are in separate states, and it is states, much more so than cities or local governments, that typically contribute the most to these incentive packages.

Related Article: Amazon's HQ2: Experts reveal their predictions

Right behind New York and DC, I'd place Boston, Chicago, and Toronto. As the home of Harvard and MIT, Boston is a considerable talent magnet. Chicago is the nation's third largest metro, behind New York and LA, and a great headquarters city in its own right. The city was once home to Sears -- the Amazon of its day and a company that has long fascinated Bezos. Toronto is also a great headquarters city, with a relatively open immigration policy, topnotch universities, publicly supported health care, and a spectacular global airport. Earlier this year, Google's Sidewalk Labs selected it as the location for its new smart city development. If Bezos really wanted to make a statement to Trump, he would select the only non-American candidate, whose governance is a direct contrast to Trump's policies and priorities.

As someone who was born in Newark, lived in Pittsburgh, taught at Carnegie Mellon for nearly 20 years, and spends part of the winter in Miami, I'm pulling for one of my "hometowns," even if they are all long shots.

My hunch is all 20 finalists are in the hunt for something, with fast-expanding Amazon wanting to do the vetting for various investment projects in one swoop. Columbus and Indianapolis fit the bill as logistics and distribution hubs. LA and Nashville can be leading centers for Amazon's video and music content. Pittsburgh can host the company's artificial intelligence and robotics lab. Toronto can serve as its Canadian headquarters. Miami can do the same for Latin America.

While Amazon may have the deck stacked in picking its HQ2 location, the mayors and elected leaders of these cities owe it to their tax payers and citizens to ensure they are not on the hook for hundreds of millions and in some cases as much as $7 billion in incentives to one of the world's most valuable companies and richest men.

Indeed, many of the leading shortlist cities are led by progressive mayors, including some with national political ambitions like Eric Garcetti in LA and Bill de Blasio in New York, as well as Bill Peduto in Pittsburgh, Muriel Bowser in DC, Rahm Emmanuel in Chicago and Ras Baraka in Newark. The truly progressive thing to do is to forge a pact to not give Amazon a penny in tax incentives or other handouts, thereby forcing the company to make its decision based on merit.

That would be something that would truly benefit the winning city -- and the rest of us as well.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 27900

Reported Deaths: 1082
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds215239
DeSoto137316
Madison122234
Jones106949
Neshoba96069
Lauderdale88278
Rankin84112
Forrest81442
Scott75015
Harrison7448
Copiah56615
Leake54819
Jackson53316
Holmes52741
Wayne52112
Washington4969
Lee49316
Oktibbeha48624
Yazoo4736
Leflore47249
Lowndes45311
Warren44317
Lincoln43534
Lamar4197
Grenada3805
Monroe36729
Pike36712
Attala35223
Lafayette3524
Newton3289
Sunflower3066
Covington3025
Bolivar27713
Panola2706
Adams26718
Chickasaw25918
Tate2577
Jasper2506
Marion24811
Pontotoc2476
Noxubee2458
Pearl River24432
Winston2435
Clay24210
Claiborne23610
Simpson2303
Smith20611
Clarke20124
Marshall2013
Coahoma1866
Kemper17614
Union1759
Walthall1724
Yalobusha1617
Carroll16011
Lawrence1591
Itawamba1278
Calhoun1244
Humphreys1239
Tippah12311
Webster12310
Montgomery1222
Hancock12013
Jefferson Davis1064
Tallahatchie1043
Prentiss983
Greene927
Jefferson923
Wilkinson919
Tunica893
Amite822
George743
Choctaw714
Quitman680
Tishomingo681
Perry614
Alcorn561
Stone521
Franklin382
Benton270
Sharkey240
Issaquena71
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 39604

Reported Deaths: 961
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4387142
Montgomery383999
Mobile3697134
Tuscaloosa204938
Marshall153710
Lee118937
Shelby108223
Madison10577
Morgan9813
Walker86723
Franklin85213
Dallas8198
Elmore81314
Baldwin6869
Etowah62513
Butler60427
DeKalb6025
Chambers58127
Tallapoosa56369
Autauga54511
Unassigned52025
Russell4840
Lowndes45820
Lauderdale4446
Houston4344
Limestone4090
Cullman4003
Pike3995
Colbert3685
Bullock3629
Coffee3532
Barbour3231
Covington3087
St. Clair3042
Hale29321
Marengo28611
Wilcox2808
Sumter27612
Calhoun2705
Talladega2677
Clarke2665
Escambia2636
Dale2440
Jackson2382
Winston2333
Blount2141
Chilton2112
Pickens2116
Marion20312
Monroe1972
Choctaw19212
Conecuh1804
Bibb1711
Macon1708
Randolph1709
Greene1667
Perry1451
Henry1303
Crenshaw1233
Lawrence1010
Washington1007
Cherokee747
Lamar711
Fayette671
Geneva670
Clay582
Coosa551
Cleburne291
Out of AL00
Tupelo
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 90°
Columbus
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 78°
Oxford
Scattered Clouds
90° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 100°
Starkville
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 75°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather