- Earlier in February, Amazon announced it would no longer pursue its HQ2 project in New York City, citing pushback from local politicians.
- Politicians in Virginia, where the other half of HQ2 is set to be developed, have also made some noise and said that they would like to reexamine the deal struck between Arlington County, the state of Virginia, and Amazon.
- Virginia may have more leverage with Amazon, as the company has no easy recourse if it decides to pull out – aside from reopening a nationwide search for a site for its second headquarters.
In the wake of Amazon pulling its second headquarters project – or HQ2 – out of New York City, some activists and local leaders in Virginia are also voicing concerns.
Earlier in February, Amazon announced it would no longer pursue its HQ2 project in New York, citing pushback from local politicians. The decision shocked onlookers, and reaction was mixed among both the project’s supporters and detractors.
Attention then naturally shifted to Virginia, where Amazon had set its sights on developing the other half of its HQ2 project. Amazon had planned to build in an area newly dubbed “National Landing,” which comprises Crystal City, the eastern portion of Pentagon City, and the northern portion of Potomac Yard in Alexandria and Arlington. Reaction from the local community had previously been more muted there than it had been in New York.
But now, Virginian local leaders are making some noise of their own. They, too, would like to reexamine the deal that was struck between Arlington County, the state of Virginia, and Amazon, which is set to offer up to $US550 million in state tax incentives in exchange for hiring 25,000 people in the area. The county also offered the company $US23 million over 15 years from a rising tax on hotel rooms, for a grand total of $US573 million.
A coalition called “For us, not Amazon” is voicing many of the same concerns that were raised in New York, namely that rising housing costs and gentrification could displace working-class residents.
At the county level, a debate is taking place around the $US23 million in grants being offered to the company. The Arlington County Board will vote to approve those grants on March 13.
At least two members of the board – Erik Gutshall and Matt de Ferranti – have said to local news site ARLnow.com that Amazon hasn’t engaged enough with the local community and its board ahead of the vote.
“I don’t really understand why they’re not out here … they need to have their coming out party, if you will,” Gutshall told ARLnow. “Without some really clear rationale or justification from them, I would be very, very hesitant to vote on the incentive agreement without them having had some meaningful engagement in the community. In fact, I couldn’t see us voting on this without that happening first.”
A company spokesperson told ARLnow.com in a statement that it “has met with stakeholders in the community to discuss plans for our second headquarters in National Landing and we will continue to do so into the future.”
A few local activists are sure of which action they think the board should take.
“The county should vote down the deal,” Roshan Abraham, an organiser with Our Revolution Arlington, said Monday during a meeting of FUNA, according to the Washington Business Journal. “If Amazon chooses not to come to Arlington over $US23 million, good riddance.”
Abraham has publicly criticised the deal since it was announced, largely on the same grounds as Amazon’s critics in New York.
“There has been no outreach to the low-income, working class, and black and brown communities of Arlington who will be most negatively impacted by Amazon’s arrival,” Abraham added. “A lot of people are really concerned about rising housing costs, Amazon’s anti-union stance and workplace practices.”
The real-estate market in Virginia is reportedly already feeling the effects of Amazon’s focus on the region. Representatives from Redfin and Realtor.com both told USA Today that real-estate speculation has increased in Arlington following Amazon’s pulling out of the New York project.
The median home sale price in the county rose from $US545,000 to $US605,000 from October to January – an 11% jump, they told the newspaper. The number of homes sold increased even in the winter months, when homes sales are usually down.
At the state level, there is at least one delegate in Virginia’s house of delegates that reportedly opposes the deal: Lee Carter. It’s unclear how much support he has in the chamber or outside it in Richmond.
Amazon’s commitment has not wavered yet.
“We are excited to bring our new Amazon headquarters to National Landing and help support the community,” an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider in a statement. “The 25,000 new jobs [from] Amazon will help offset the more than 34,000 jobs Arlington has lost since 2003 due to BRAC, sequestration, and federal agency closures, and will help diversify the local economy. Our investment of $US2.5 billion will generate more than $US3.2 billion in tax revenue which can be used for public services.”
Outspoken critics of Amazon in Virginia may be emboldened by the company’s pullout of New York. It does not have a third HQ2 city to fall back on, meaning it may be more committed to working things out in Virginia than it was in New York.
- Read more on Amazon’s HQ2 project:
- Amazon says it will still honour its agreements to assist New York City schools after yanking HQ2
- Amazon canceled its New York City HQ2 plans. Here’s everything we know about how the massive deal unravelled.
- Trump called Amazon’s abrupt New York HQ2 cancellation a ‘big loss’ and blamed the ‘radical left’ for the outcome
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says that $US3 billion in tax credits should be given to the public, not Amazon – and a new poll shows that nearly half of Americans agree