Why would Amazon want to build HQ2 outside Seattle?

King 5's Chris Daniels reports

It's one heck of a big business beauty contest.

Amazon's public pursuit of a second home to build a headquarters has had representatives from cities across North America falling over each other to get the rose.

Tucson sent a cactus.  Calgary talked about fighting off bears.  New Jersey offered seven billion dollars in tax breaks.

Why did it come to this?

"There is obviously a reason Amazon is doing this in a very public way. They do want to send a message," said Monica Nicklesburg, who has covered the issue for GeekWire. "Seattle has a bit of a reputation as being unfriendly to business."

The company has fueled Seattle's rapid growth but has also taken the blame from city leaders over problems with affordable housing and transportation.

Howard Wright, a long time Seattle businessman whose family owns the Space Needle, has been actively engaged in city politics.  He co-chaired the task force for $15-an-hour minimum wage and calls himself a progressive business owner.

However, he says Seattle City Council led efforts have changed the climate. 

"I think we have a City Council that is not very attuned to what it takes to foster a good business climate," said Wright, who called the Council "tone deaf" in a social media post.  "I don't think they've had experience working for businesses or running businesses themselves."

He pointed to a letter written to Amazon last week, signed by five councilmembers, to hit the reset button.  Wright says the same week, other council members pitched an employee head tax. 

"The city is not running a deficit," he said, "and why they are loading up business with new taxes is difficult for me to comprehend."

Wright says Seattle should not take Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for granted "or poke him in the eye.  He planted his flag here and went forward."

Maud Daudon, CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, was even more direct in a statement to KING5:

“We are in a global competition for good-paying jobs. If Seattle City Councilmembers are serious about partnering with our region’s businesses to build an inclusive economy that helps all our residents prosper, a tax on jobs – as Councilmember Mike O’Brien proposed last week—seems diametrically opposed to this goal. Right now, not everyone is benefitting from our economic boom. City Council bears a large share of the responsibility for that because they have focused on proposing short-term fixes that don’t solve the real problem. Homelessness and housing affordability are serious, pressing issues, raising the question of what the Council is doing with the resources it has, like the $70 million increase in the general fund over last year, or the $290 million Housing Levy passed by voters last year.” 

Amazon is not tipping their hand and has maintained the company line about needing room, talent, diversity and that "some people don't necessarily want to live in the Northwest" as an Amazon VP said at an event last week.

"That to me is in so many words is they are not considering serious bids in Washington state," said Nicklesburg, who believes Toronto, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Detroit all make sense for Amazon and fit the criteria it laid out in the request for proposals.

© 2017 KING-TV


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