Amazon HQ2 could hurt those in need. Here's how the winning city can make sure it doesn't

Jeff Bezos was so obsessed with Amazon's growth in the mid-1990s that he had the firm's motto, "Get Big Fast...

Posted: Nov 13, 2018 1:32 PM
Updated: Nov 13, 2018 1:32 PM

Jeff Bezos was so obsessed with Amazon's growth in the mid-1990s that he had the firm's motto, "Get Big Fast" imprinted on t-shirts for all his employees. Two decades later, Amazon is outgrowing its current home of Seattle so rapidly that it has spent the past year running a competition to select a new US city in which to build its 50,000-person "HQ2."

The search finally ended Tuesday with Amazon splitting the headquarters between two East Coast megaregions — the Northern Virginia suburbs outside of Washington, D.C., and Long Island City in New York City's borough of Queens.

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The leaders of these cities should internalize warnings from Seattle. Commentators there have taken to calling Amazon's expansion a "prosperity bomb," reflecting both the massive impact of the company's growth and the heat of the ensuing fights about how that growth should be managed and distributed across the city.

In one scenario, Amazon could simply drop another prosperity bomb on these two already-prosperous markets, producing a regressive explosion that heightens inequality, spurs gentrification and diminishes social cohesion. In another scenario, Amazon HQ2 and HQ3 could serve more as a controlled power source — one that economically energizes a broad base of residents and local communities.

How could a "grand bargain" like this unfold as Amazon and local leaders in New York and Virginia bear down on the final stretch? Here are three core pillars for local leaders and the company itself to consider:

Use Amazon to seed the next Amazon, and build wealth among local entrepreneurs

Amazon's presence will have a gravitational pull on other companies, spin off new businesses, and create demand for local suppliers. In Seattle, Amazon has helped support the tech cluster by investing in the Alexa Accelerator, a partnership with Techstars that helps startups incorporate Amazon's popular Alexa artificial intelligence platform into their businesses. Economic development organizations, accelerators and incubators in each city can work to help nurture tech entrepreneurship around Amazon through similar partnerships.

Amazon's massive footprint will also create opportunities for local businesses in the winning city that do everything from food preparation to event planning to legal services. City officials should establish a mechanism to connect Amazon to local suppliers as the company considers procurement and vendor decisions at the new headquarters.

Prepare current residents for employment opportunities

One of Amazon's biggest challenges is finding the necessary talent to support its growth, and this presents a tremendous opportunity for local residents and leaders in education and training. Amazon should partner with local education, workforce development and economic development entities to prepare as many current residents as possible for the tens of thousands of jobs these new locations will create. These partnerships can build from Amazon's technical apprenticeship program, and draw upon leading-edge digital skill providers like Per Scholas and General Assembly already operating in the community.

Longer term, Amazon should also co-invest in partnerships with local school districts to expose children to STEM education through mentorship programs with Amazon employees and career exposure days at the campus. Amazon could extend these efforts to formal, work-based learning opportunities for young people, such as internships, externships and apprenticeships. Oftentimes, these types of employer-educator partnerships exist as pockets of innovation, but Amazon's resource base and talent requirements offer an opportunity for greater scale in these offerings.

Boost housing supply to ameliorate growing pains

Even with the most ambitious workforce development efforts imaginable, most local residents will not directly benefit from Amazon's investment. For them, there are well-founded concerns that their cost of living will increase as new arrivals bid up the price of housing.

The good news, as my colleague Jenny Schuetz notes, is that Amazon's site selection team picked sites that were already planning for densification and new development.

Yet even with expanded market-rate housing development, HQ2 and HQ3 are still likely to exacerbate affordability challenges. A portion of the tax revenue generated by Amazon's arrival ought to be set aside for a fund to preserve and expand affordable housing.

This summary of New York's proposal suggests that the city is intentionally leveraging Amazon to further broaden goals related to education and skills, innovation and industry, and neighborhood development.

At this point, many would point out that this entire process suggests that Amazon cares little about the well-being of US cities, and has simply sought to extract the best deal for its bottom line. But here we are, and leaders in Northern Virginia and New York have signed up to try to make this work. If done right, these two global metros could invest in shared regional assets that not only benefit Amazon but also workers, communities and other businesses.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 159036

Reported Deaths: 3879
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10563104
Hinds10414204
Harrison7397113
Jackson6655128
Rankin6057107
Lee540396
Madison5120107
Forrest394786
Jones376188
Lauderdale3663147
Lafayette341053
Washington3321108
Lamar301950
Oktibbeha255262
Lowndes252867
Bolivar248084
Panola237353
Neshoba2280122
Marshall225051
Leflore211191
Monroe209778
Pontotoc208131
Lincoln200566
Sunflower194155
Warren183058
Tate180451
Union172926
Copiah170840
Pike166760
Scott161330
Yazoo161340
Itawamba159936
Alcorn159328
Pearl River158969
Coahoma155943
Prentiss154931
Simpson154053
Adams147252
Grenada145445
Leake141844
Holmes134461
Covington130040
Tippah130030
George129525
Winston128726
Hancock127641
Wayne123024
Attala122834
Marion121447
Tishomingo114043
Chickasaw110732
Newton110529
Tallahatchie99427
Clay96127
Clarke94853
Jasper87023
Stone82015
Calhoun79513
Walthall79330
Montgomery78426
Carroll75515
Lawrence74614
Smith74216
Yalobusha74228
Noxubee73317
Perry68726
Tunica63019
Greene62422
Jefferson Davis59617
Claiborne59216
Amite57615
Humphreys55219
Quitman5107
Benton50418
Kemper48018
Webster47714
Wilkinson40722
Jefferson38312
Choctaw3637
Franklin3635
Sharkey32917
Issaquena1214
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 256828

Reported Deaths: 3711
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34214511
Mobile20299366
Madison13925150
Tuscaloosa13591156
Montgomery12659238
Shelby1095877
Baldwin9163137
Lee792566
Morgan710851
Etowah677467
Calhoun6695121
Marshall665757
Houston548239
DeKalb504738
Cullman472043
St. Clair451857
Limestone447546
Lauderdale436054
Elmore427564
Walker3818111
Talladega374457
Jackson350723
Colbert336443
Blount310043
Autauga287342
Franklin259734
Coffee254115
Dale242054
Dallas232932
Chilton230841
Russell22813
Covington227934
Escambia206131
Tallapoosa189191
Chambers185950
Pike162214
Clarke161819
Marion146136
Winston141924
Lawrence135336
Pickens127720
Geneva12638
Marengo125224
Bibb123938
Barbour120629
Butler118842
Randolph105922
Cherokee105524
Hale99732
Fayette96316
Clay93525
Washington93319
Henry8946
Monroe83811
Lowndes82129
Cleburne79914
Macon76522
Crenshaw72930
Conecuh72414
Lamar7138
Bullock70919
Perry6927
Wilcox64918
Sumter58922
Greene44218
Choctaw43519
Coosa3724
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