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Thread: Amazon

  1. #1
    Cyburbian MacheteJames's avatar
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    Amazon

    Surprised no one's talking about this. What are folks' thoughts on some of the desperate ploys that have been rolled out to try to lure this behemoth into town? And what does it say about the state of local economic development that officials are going to such desperate measure to get the Amazon mothership to land on their small berg?

    I'm no stranger to the fact that there's a lot of gimmickry and witch doctor-y out there in the everyday ratables chase that constitutes economic development in most communities. We all know it. What I'm not seeing in this circus is any kind of conversation of what constitutes real, and effective, and sustainable economic development for the 90% of the country that lies outside of the superstar metro areas, none of which really *need* the stimulus that an Amazon HQ would provide. Part of me wants to see the Chicagos, New Yorks, and Bostons just let the heartland have a win for a change, but that, of course, is not how the system works.

  2. #2
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
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    I'm really enjoying just watching all of it. It really is quite pathetic, but it is also endlessly entertaining watching these communities whore themselves out.

    The one piece I like is elements of the RFP criteria. It is making public the issue of quality of life, transit access, etc. in these types of relocations.

    There's a part of me that wants to see it in Austin because I think it will prompt some key transit infrastructure investments, but there's a part of me that wants Austin to lose because they need to have that slap in the face for refusing to invest meaningfully in transit for three decades and having their head so firmly planted in the sand regarding affordability.

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    https://www.economy.com/dismal/analy...ers-Should-Go/

    Atlanta as the #2 contender at this point (per Moody's)...I have mixed feelings on this. Great for the local economy and job market, etc...lousy for traffic and potentially overloaded transit in my neck of the woods. But, my new house is an easy 10-minute walk to a MARTA station on the line they would locate close to - maybe some Amazon exec will offer me a boatload of cash for it at an extreme markup.
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  4. #4
    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    NH has put forth a bid that has zero chance of success, because we won't throw billions in incentives at it (we can't under state law).

    I agree with the perspective in this article...Amazon will play bids off one another until they've sucked dry (and potentially even further) all the tax incentives and infrastructure they can off some community/state willing to sell their souls:

    https://www.fastcompany.com/40481774...unity-benefits
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  5. #5
    OH....IO Hink's avatar
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    I like when States like Ohio put in support to Cincinnati and Dayton and Cleveland.

    You refuse to invest in a train system, you refuse to invest in redevelopment, you refuse to invest in placemaking. And you think they are going to choose us?

    I think the best part of the whole thing is that is clearly makes communities weaknesses come to light. Or in my case our entire state.

    We lost Foxconn because we couldn't give enough incentives. We won't get Amazon because we don't have the amenities. Which is worse?
    A common mistake people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. -Douglas Adams

  6. #6
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Our region (Metro Detroit) has put in a response to the RFP and I am glad to see that ours hasn't come up in the media like some of the gimmicky ones. Metro Detroit is widely considered to be a long shot - Pros: cheap real estate, relatively less expensive labor, low cost of living, easy access to international market with foreign tech workers, strong background in logistics, business leaders working on big changes in the city, highly educated workforce. The big strikes against us: Low quality of life compared to places like Austin or Denver or DC; our workforce is full of engineers and high-tech workers but it's primarily mechanical, industrial, and electrical engineers instead of software developers, and our lack of a good public transit system.

    Whether we get the HQ2 or not, my hope is that this is a wake up call for the region that working together is to the advantage of all of the communities here and that companies really do take things like QOL and transit into account these days when making their site selection decisions. Those of us in the economic development field know that but trying to get elected officials or the general population to understand that seems inordinately difficult.

    FWIW, I haven't yet seen the region's final submission but other than the basic demographic or incentive information, my suggestion was that the folks in charge (our effort is being led by the City of Detroit and a team from billionaire Dan Gilbert's office) should focus on selling Amazon on the economic impact that their development would have here (but not in a gimmicky way). My other thought is that if Amazon wants to get their foot in the door in transportation or autonomous vehicles, there aren't many better places to do that than Metro Detroit.

    If I had to put my money on a region that will win the location, I'd say either Charlotte or the RTP. Both have relatively low costs of living, low business costs, inexpensive real estate, and an extremely high LQ for high tech workers. That region also has a pretty nice climate if you like the outdoors or that type of stuff. I wonder if Amazon would count their recent legislative efforts against the LGBT community against them though and make a political stand against locating in a place like that?

    I think Orlando might be another contender, especially if Amazon is serious about growing their streaming media offerings. The media industry has a pretty big footprint in Florida and Orlando is centrally located and has a lot of the infrastructure and know-how in the area thanks to Disney. Real estate and cost of living is pretty darn cheap in Orlando as well. Thinking outside the box - if Jeff Bezos wants to get Amazon involved in something like SpaceX or that kind of effort, there is a lot of that in the Orlando area as well thanks to Lockheed Martin and stuff further out at Cape Canaveral or Patrick AFB. Traffic seems absolutely awful there though, especially for a city/region of that size.

    I keep seeing places like Austin or Denver or DC or Boston at the top of the professional prognosticators' lists but I think these cities have a huge strike against them in terms of the cost of labor and the cost of real estate and I don't think the professional lists are taking those factors into account as much as they should be. Amazon has driven up labor and real estate prices so much in Seattle that those are probably the two most significant reasons why they want to expand outside of there. The people making these lists don't seem to have weighted those variables nearly as much as they should have.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  7. #7
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I really don't know why anyone put anything in. They are going to locate in the Raleigh area.


    I have mixed feelings about something like this. It would be awesome but at what cost. Do you give away everything in terms of the long term tax benefits of the increased population? Also what if they decide to move in 5 or 10 years. Then you have a potential of 30K people having to relocate.

    Personally, I rather get 1,000 businesses or that hire 30 people even 100 that hire 300 than something like this.
    If you want different results in your life, you need to do different things than you have done in the past. Change is that simple.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by michaelskis View post
    I have mixed feelings about something like this. It would be awesome but at what cost. Do you give away everything in terms of the long term tax benefits of the increased population? Also what if they decide to move in 5 or 10 years...
    The bolded portion is my usual concern about offering incentives, especially for a development that isn't really making a investment in the physical/real property. Reading the RFP, it sounds like Amazon wants to put actual shovels in the ground with this project so that will tie them to a location for a longer term so I don't know if the threat of moving again in a few years is as much of a risk with this particular project but when I see communities offering incentives for call centers or something else that can move on a whim I always think it's such a waste.

    I don't know if the folks at Amazon will even bother to watch the videos that some of the folks put out there with their RFP responses and I've only watched a handful of them and I may be biased being from Detroit, but I think the ones that we've put out are pretty good:

    Short 30 second spot:


    Longer 3 minute version:


    I must have been working in our marketing department too long because I really like how neither of these videos say the word "Amazon" (except for a bit of #AmazonDetroit text on a black screen that could easily be removed). It gives the videos a longer shelf life and so much more versatility in terms of being used elsewhere.

    Some of the videos that I've seen are chock full of local electeds and economic development folks who you can tell are not used to being behind the camera that they are almost painful. I'm looking at you Frisco, TX and Pamona, CA.

    If anybody comes across other particularly good or particularly bad videos, please share!
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  9. #9
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    It's a little gross to watch metropolitan areas give away the farm as it were to get them to come. Economic development strategies shouldn't feel like prostitution. Amazon's already inflated ego must be exploding watching the whole country on its knees. They are truly a success story for sure, but the begging is a little greasy.

    I hope they pick a city that really needs them (so sorry Raleigh and Boston and Atlanta) like Detroit - places where unemployment is the lowest in the country so the true offset of giving away the farm equals the increase in decent paying jobs - for major metro areas already doing okay, I just don't see the tradeoff as fair to other existing corporate taxpayers

    I have mixed feelings about lower populated areas like Scarborough, Maine, as the investment in infrastructure to house/accommodate them would be massive and might physically scar the area - Maine desperately needs year-round jobs for sure, but be careful what you ask for sometimes...so I am wincing a little on that submission

    What's the Vegas line on this, does anyone know?
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  10. #10
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Part of the great thing about being a rural planner, no big projects like this. Other than not having the workforce or the plush amenities or several other things on the list, we have the basic infrastructure. We're dead center of the US with freeway connections galore, rail, and my town happens to have an oversized airport (like land a B-52).
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    IMO, I would think Amazon would want to be in a major metro (not just 2 million, but 3-5 million+) with a major airport. So no offense to places like Austin or Tulsa or Indianapolis, but they just don’t cut it. Even KC would be a stretch, although it would be nice for a place like that to finally get some fanfare again. I would think Atlanta, DFW, Denver, and possibly Charlotte would be strong contenders. Part of me wants to see a place like Chicago or Detroit win out and get the shot in the arm they so desperately need, but the other part of me doesn’t want decades of bad tax policy, bad business policy, and piss-poor state and big city leadership to be rewarded. The policy framework and the necessary fiscal reforms need to be taken in states like Michigan and Illinois first. Amazon would be a huge boon, no doubt, but it’s not going to solve the deep problems in those states by a long shot without serious reforms. I think Michigan is already making progress, but Illinois has not even really begun to make the reforms necessary to have a sound future.

    The other thing I find ridiculous are bids from the western United States. Amazon already has its main HQ on the west coast. Why would they build their 2nd HQ in southern CA, Salt Lake City, or other places I’ve heard mentioned? They should have been more upfront in their RFP about their criteria to eliminate some of these bids. The only place I can see is Denver, because they’re just east enough and still fairly centrally located within the U.S. and North America and check all the other boxes.

    DC or Boston might also be good options, but they’re both very expensive places to live and do business. Does that factor in at all to companies when they choose to relocate? I feel like it doesn’t, but it should.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by illinoisplanner View post
    DC or Boston might also be good options, but they’re both very expensive places to live and do business. Does that factor in at all to companies when they choose to relocate? I feel like it doesn’t, but it should.
    The cost of doing business, not just in terms of taxes but in terms of labor and real estate, factor in extremely heavily when a firm is looking to relocate or expand. The reason that expensive places like Boston or DC often still win out in bringing in new or expanded facilities even though labor and real estate are so expensive there is that they may have something else that is particularly important to a decision like proximity to suppliers/competitors or a high concentration of a certain type of labor.

    From my experience working with RFPs and looking at this particular one, I think the biggest factors in Amazon's decision are going to be the available supply of labor (particularly software engineers and web/app developers) and, less quantifiably, where they will be able to make a physical impact. The more I read the RFP and read about Amazon, the more I think they'd like to build a either large glitzy campus close to the core of whatever metro they choose or a huge skyscraper and I think this would knock DC in particular out of the running since you cannot build a skyscraper there and the cost of real estate would be prohibitive to build a spread out campus in the District or most of the immediate neighboring cities like Arlington, Bethesda, or Alexandria. I don't think Amazon has an interest in being somewhere further out like Vienna or Gaithersburg.

    This is why I think Charlotte or the Raleigh/Durham area are such attractive options - they both have a ton of tech talent and much much cheaper real estate that would be conducive to either a 40+ story building or a large campus.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  13. #13
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    The cost of doing business, not just in terms of taxes but in terms of labor and real estate, factor in extremely heavily when a firm is looking to relocate or expand. The reason that expensive places like Boston or DC often still win out in bringing in new or expanded facilities even though labor and real estate are so expensive there is that they may have something else that is particularly important to a decision like proximity to suppliers/competitors or a high concentration of a certain type of labor.

    From my experience working with RFPs and looking at this particular one, I think the biggest factors in Amazon's decision are going to be the available supply of labor (particularly software engineers and web/app developers) and, less quantifiably, where they will be able to make a physical impact. The more I read the RFP and read about Amazon, the more I think they'd like to build a either large glitzy campus close to the core of whatever metro they choose or a huge skyscraper and I think this would knock DC in particular out of the running since you cannot build a skyscraper there and the cost of real estate would be prohibitive to build a spread out campus in the District or most of the immediate neighboring cities like Arlington, Bethesda, or Alexandria. I don't think Amazon has an interest in being somewhere further out like Vienna or Gaithersburg.

    This is why I think Charlotte or the Raleigh/Durham area are such attractive options - they both have a ton of tech talent and much much cheaper real estate that would be conducive to either a 40+ story building or a large campus.
    Good point regarding expensive places still being attractive due to the highly skilled workforce. Also, yes, it does seem like Amazon wants to be more in the city core as opposed to the suburbs, which makes a place like DC or Boston even less doable. I also think a Midwestern or Southern city would be more inclined to give Amazon every incentive they want. Be interesting to see where they land.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
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