Amazon to build second HQ in North America

KING 5's Heather Graf reports.

Amazon says it's searching for a site to build a headquarters outside of Seattle.

Although the company says it will keep its first headquarters in Seattle, the new one will be its "full equal," and employ as many as 50,000 people.

"This in many respects is a wake-up call for Seattle and the region," said GeekWire Co-Founder Todd Bishop.

He says the e-commerce giant's presence in the state is often taken for granted, and the local community doesn't shy away from complaining about the increase in traffic and housing prices, often attributed to Amazon's growth.

"There are a lot of communities," he said, "that would kill for the problems Amazon brings to Seattle because of the upside."

The company estimates its investments in Seattle between 2010 and 2016 added $38 billion to the city's economy.

And Amazon is promising to spend more than $5 billion on whatever site it chooses in North America for its second headquarters.

The company says it's looking for a metropolitan area that has a population greater than 1 million and can attract skilled workers.

It also wants a business friendly environment, which is not the case in Seattle, according to Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Maud Daudon.

"The city has continued to implement policies that create an environment that is at best unfriendly, and at worst, outright hostile toward the needs of our largest employers," Daudon said in response to Amazon's announcement.

KING 5 asked Seattle Mayor Ed Murray what he thought about the Chamber of Commerce's strongly worded statement.

"Amazon is not leaving Seattle," Murray said.  "I mean, Amazon is growing here.  There are buildings that have been permitted, that are going to be built in the next few years.  Amazon is already leasing space."

In a statement issued shortly after Amazon's announcement, Murray said his office will immediately begin conversations with Amazon around their needs and the company's long-term plans for Seattle.  

But he does believe this country's immigration policies are playing a part in Amazon's decision to build a second headquarters, possibly outside of the United States.

"We are interested in having as much of Amazon's business as we can possibly contain, but I also think there are other issues Amazon is dealing with.  That includes, regrettably, our nation's immigration laws that are preventing Amazon from getting some of the most talented people in the world into this country to work for them," said Murray.  "If I were to make a guess, I bet they'll be looking at place like Canada."

Bishop agrees, saying U.S. restrictions on immigration could make it tougher for Amazon to bring in foreign workers.  He says U.S. regulations could also hinder Amazon's plans to use drones.

"An international company like Amazon looks at something like that and says, 'Why do we have to be penned in by the regulations of this particular country?'" said Bishop.

Bishop's betting Toronto will be Amazon's pick.

KING 5 also spoke to University of Washington Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, Ben Hallen, about Amazon's plans.

"I have to say, when it comes to Amazon, in some ways I'm surprised, and I'm also not surprised.  They tend to think out of the box, they tend to do things differently.  They're willing to challenge conventional wisdom, and I think this is another great example of that," said Hallen.

Hallen's area of expertise is business strategy: basically how companies can perform better, how they can  get the right talent, and how they can pursue the right market opportunities.

He offered three factors that likely played a part in Amazon's decision to expand in a city other than Seattle.

"One is about talent acquisition.  Seattle is a wonderful location, a great city in terms of cultural and geographic location, but it is getting expensive to live here," he said. 

Second factor?

"They may be looking for a better understanding of different markets.  So, being located in different markets, that's going to give them insight on how different consumers shop.  So that may be something they're looking for as well," said Hallen.  "And then the third thing is about the influence and the negotiation with the local environment.  That's going to allow them to negotiate some things with whatever city they choose.  It's also going to give them the ability to negotiate things here in Seattle as well.  If they choose to be in the United States, it's also going to give them additional influence in Washington, D.C.  So right now you have one set of representatives who can help advocate for Amazon's interest through the state of Washington.  Well if they locate in another state, they're going to get an additional set of representatives as well."

Local leaders react to Amazon's announcement

Ed Murray, Seattle Mayor
"Today is an exciting day for Amazon."

"My office will immediately begin conversations with Amazon around their needs with today's announcement and the company's long-term plans for Seattle."

Jenny Durkan, Seattle mayoral candidate
"One of the key issues that I heard today was that Amazon has a problem recruiting workers to fill jobs here in our city. It's why I'm committed to building more education opportunities for our students and workers through the Seattle Promise plan and expanding workforce training to connect our workers with these high-skilled jobs in our region. The City must be a partner to building career pathways as well as working closely with our employers to make sure our businesses keep Seattle as their home."

Cary Moon, Seattle mayoral candidate
"However, we've seen with Boeing how a bidding war over billions in tax breaks for corporations only helped the wealthy few while doing nothing to keep good paying jobs here. I'm not interested in playing that game if Amazon isn't serious about helping to pay for the impacts of their rapid growth on our city."

Susan Hutchinson, Washington State Republican Party chairman
"This is purely Boeing déjà vu."

"What they're basically setting us up for is the situation of them having another place to go if the political and business climate deteriorates."

Maud Daudon, Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce president and CEO
"Today's announcement from Amazon should come as no surprise, as the City has continued to implement policies that create an environment that is at best unfriendly, and at worst, outright hostile toward the needs of our largest employers." 

© 2017 KING-TV


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