Ever since the online behemoth announced it would be building a second headquarters somewhere outside of its hometown of Seattle, municipalities have been lining up—and, in some cases, practically bending over backward—for the chance to help the retailer put down roots in their backyards.
Because wherever Amazon lands, it will bring with it 50,000 jobs and a $5 billion investment.
Cue the creative, practical and sometimes predictable pitches. Danbury, Connecticut Mayor Mark Boughton created a video pitching “the Danbury Difference;” Gary, Indiana ran ads in The New York Times and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted his city’s reasonable cost of living and easy and frequent flights to Seattle. Tulsa, Oklahoma sent a giant cactus.
Even Amazon’s hometown is getting in on the race, mounting an effort to convince Bezos’s team to build the second headquarters in Seattle.
Among the cities vying for the opportunity to host Amazon is New York, which through the Economic Development Corporation, is fielding dozens of proposals highlighting appropriate sites within its boroughs, which it will vet before it puts together a formal pitch ahead of Amazon’s Oct. 19 deadline.
“We know New York is the only city that can immediately meet Amazon’s needs for 50,000 of the most talented workers in the world,” said NYCEDC president and CEO James Patchett. “Now we know that New York can choose from dozens of potential headquarters sites with over 50 million square feet of office space to make the strongest possible bid. We continue to separate ourselves from the competition and demonstrate that we are the clear choice for Amazon’s second headquarters.”
Amazon is already scheduled to take 360,000 additional square feet of office space in New York to house 2,000 additional employees and it will be opening a new fulfillment center in the city’s Staten Island borough, which will create 2,250 new positions.
Despite the eager response from cities across the country, Amazon’s planned expansion, or rather the way it’s likely to play out, is not without controversy.
“Why are they doing this whole dog and pony show? Amazon wants something for nothing,” Matthew Gardner, a senior fellow at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan think tank, told The New York Times. “They would like a package of tax incentives for something they were going to do anyway.”
Art Rolnick, an economist at the University of Minnesota, told the publication, the whole process—one that other companies have undertaken as well—is akin to “blackmail,” adding “It’s corporate welfare.”