Let’s get this out of the way first: The asterisk attached to all stories speculating about where Amazon will plant its second headquarters, the one that says nobody outside of Jeff Bezos really knows where the company will go, applies here. We won’t know for sure until next year. But, in the waning days of 2017, let’s speculate one more time, with vigor.
There’s this intriguing news item from Georgia, where Amazon just registered a lobbyist with the state’s ethics commission, signaling that the tech giant is keeping a close eye on Atlanta, frequently named as a frontrunner in the HQ2 sweepstakes.
There’s this analysis from the University of Washington’s Center for Environmental Politics, which used data on the last 25 years of federally declared emergencies and natural disasters to come up with a climate “vulnerability ranking.” Because the analysis relies on the Dallas-snubbing Moody’s Analytics ranking of cities with the top HQ2 prospects, North Texas is nowhere to be found. Researchers did ding leading contenders Austin (drought and flooding) and Atlanta (heat waves) for their climate vulnerability. While Amazon did not cite climate as a factor in its headquarters search, the company has in recent years made a lot of noise about its commitment to renewable energy, and economists and insurers are increasingly taking into account the risks of a changing climate.
Then there’s this CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey, which polled residents of Amazon’s various municipal suitors on their enthusiasm for a city-changing corporate headquarters landing in their region. Specifically, it asked whether survey recipients thought Amazon’s HQ2 would be a “good thing” for the region. In other words, who wants it the most?
Coming in strong at 60 percent. Responding to another question in the same survey, Dallas residents did show they were slightly less enthusiastic about the prospect of working for Amazon.
There is a will in Dallas, even if the way remains murky, particularly as the Dallas Regional Chamber has not released the details of its bid, which presumably includes millions of dollars in incentives, if not something as extreme as Chicago’s proposal to funnel Amazon employees’ income taxes back to the company.
It does again raise the question of whether Dallas should want Amazon to come to town. There are the jobs, 50,000 of them by Amazon’s estimate. There’s the prestige. If what happened in Seattle is any guide, there’s the investment in infrastructure, public transit, and development that would ensue.
As others have warned and witnessed in Seattle, in any city that gets HQ2 there’s also likely to be a “heroin injection” of inflated housing costs and transforming neighborhoods filled by tech worker residents making six-figure salaries. Is Dallas prepared to responsibly adapt to the kind of change Amazon would bring? Whatever benefits come from an Amazon relocation, the company has no incentive to address a city’s staggering inequality.
There’s probably good reason the Bay Area, which has seen firsthand what happens to cities when massive tech companies have all the power, is so unenthused by the idea of an Amazon relocation. We’ll see in 2018 whether Dallas gets what it wants.