One of Amazon's newest buildings in downtown Seattle. (JORDAN STEAD / Amazon)

Business

Amazon Bails on New York, But It is Unlikely That Dallas Is Back in the Running for HQ2

After scraping its plans to open part of its second headquarters in Long Island City, Amazon says it will not reopen the HQ2 search.

According to a spokesperson for the company, Amazon has backed out of its plans to locate part of its HQ2 in Long Island City, reigniting some speculation that the company could move part of its offices to Dallas. But it doesn’t appear the company has any intention of revisiting its search.

Criticism over the relocation of one of the world’s largest companies to Long Island City, Queens began as soon as the announcement was made last November. Community activists and some political leaders criticized the massive tax incentives Gov. Andrew Cuomo wished to hand over to the company and feared that the influx of tech employees with lucrative, $150,000/year jobs would disrupt the local economy and displace current residents. Ironically, one of the reasons Amazon is believed to have chosen New York for its HQ2 was the belief that the city was large enough to absorb a company of its size and wealth. But the residents and representatives of Long Island City, which has already been undergoing a massive transformation over the past decade, fought hard against the relocation—and won.

“After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens,” Amazon spokeswoman Jodi Seth said in a statement.

Does this mean that Amazon will now look back to Dallas for its HQ2? On the surface, likely not. In that same statement, Seth says that the company does not plan to re-open the HQ2 search at this time. But as Jeremiah reported last week, Mike Rosa, senior vice president at the Dallas Regional Chamber, says the chamber has ” never hung up the phone with Amazon.”

“Communication with [Amazon] is ongoing,” Rosa said. “And if they were to readjust their decision based on things that didn’t go as they planned in New York, they certainly know who to call.”

So, does that mean Amazon doesn’t have to reopen the search because they have Dallas as a backup, or, after their experience in New York, is the online retailer happy to refocus its HQ2 efforts in Crystal City and Nashville?

We will see. With the announcement about Long Island City, chamber boosters may feel they have one last shot to score an Amazonian super-charge to Dallas’ economy that could push its tech scene to a new level, bring in tons of high-paying jobs, transform huge swaths of Dallas’ urban landscape, and have a vast residual effect on the growth of the regional economy as a whole. For those in Dallas who share many of the same fears of the New Yorkers—who see Amazon not as a figure of economic opportunity, but a force that could continue to widen and deepen economic inequality, neighborhood displacement, and housing affordability—there is new reason to worry.

I count myself among those suspect of the golden goose Amazon has promised its host cities. Dallas, DFW Airport, and area suburbs were willing to lay out huge incentives packages to lure the company. But after spending some time in Seattle last year and viewing the impact the company has had on that city firsthand, I feared the way Amazon in Dallas could exacerbate problems of poverty, housing, homelessness, and neighborhood displacement, disruption, and destruction. The size and impact of Amazon goes beyond the abstract figures of economic impact. For better and worse, the company would have an indelible effect on shaping the future of Dallas’ cultural, political, and civic identity. Yes, Amazon would bring growth. But an Amazonian Dallas grow Dallas into a place it isn’t or doesn’t want to become.

I believe Dallas will be a stronger, healthier, more secure and possible city in the long run if it works on building a strong, bottom-up economy, no handing over the keys to the city to become a company town for the world’s largest retailer.

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