Expert: Talk to Seattleites before applying for Amazon HQ2

North American cities interested in wooing Amazon’s second headquarters should learn from Seattle’s growth and growing pains. 

At least, that's what University of Washington professor Jeff Shulman thinks. 

“We've got a lot to share in Seattle about what those 50,000 jobs can mean for the city,” Shulman said, a professor at the Foster School of Business and host of the "Seattle Growth Podcast."

Earlier this month, the Seattle-based online retailer Amazon.com announced it is in the market for a second headquarters somewhere in North America. The application deadline ends in October. Amazon said it will make a decision in 2018.

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“Some people are really gaining from these jobs, even if they don't work for Amazon. And then others are really losing, they're really struggling,” Shulman said of the mixed reactions some Seattle residents have toward the company.

Amazon has promised HQ2 would bring the chosen city 50,000 jobs. It added HQ2 would be a $5 billion investment from the company.

“It's going to remake a city,” Shulman said. “For some cities, that could be the hopes, the dreams that they wanted to come true.”

Shulman said HQ2 would also bring other companies looking to poach Amazon’s talent.

“These big companies are magnetic to talent from all over the world,” he said. “By placing your company or your office nearby, then you can take advantage of the fact that maybe they’ve gotten roots in the city, but are getting anxious to try something new. You can take advantage of the fact that somebody else brought the talent to you and then you could poach them.”

Shulman has also talked to those who have moved, due in part to highly-paid earners driving up rents and home prices across the area.

“Those 50,000 jobs and all the improvements that come with it don’t all go to the existing residents. We’re seeing some people leave,” Shulman said of Seattle.

Shulman added there are complications to Amazon’s growth in a city. Traffic is one in particular that he said continually comes up on his podcast. He recommended applicant cities should approach transportation from a regional perspective.

He added HQ2 applicants will need to make investments before seeing a return.

“There’s going to be a lag between when the Amazon HQ2 brings all sorts of people and tax revenue and good things before the city can service all of that,” he said.

Shulman said applicant cities should reach out to Seattle city leaders and their city’s residents.

“I would make sure that there’s alignment between what your residents want and what the people of Seattle have gotten and see if you could take some proactive steps to make sure that your residents today, tomorrow, and the next year will be able to thrive in your city as it changes so rapidly,” he said.

© 2017 KING-TV


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