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Amazon's Second HQ Attracts 238 Bids From Cities Eager to 'Give Away the Farm'

In the race to shower Amazon with economic development cash, the only winning move is not to play—as San Antonio has decided to do.

Stuart Isett/Polaris/NewscomStuart Isett/Polaris/NewscomAmazon announced today that 238 North American cities have submitted applications to be the lucky location that will get to shower the online retail behemoth with billions of dollars' worth of incentives.

The cities are trying to land the $5 billion investment and estimated 50,000 jobs that would come with hosting Amazon's second headquarters. As Reason's Christian Britschgi has noted, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (no stranger to humiliating himself in the game of politics) offered $7 billion in tax incentives to Amazon if the company set up shop in the Garden State. Local officials in Georgia have offered to let the company incorporate its own city. Tuscon even sent Amazon's CEO a 21-foot cactus, because why the hell not?

Amazon isn't releasing the names of the cities behind the 238 bids, but the company says they came from "54 states, provinces, districts and territories around North America." According to a map published by the company, the U.S. bids have come from 43 states and Washington, D.C. So congrats to the cities of Arkansas, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming—the only places to resist the urge to prostrate themselves before the gods of economic development.

Sure, Amazon is great. It's a powerhouse of a company that has given anyone with an internet connection and a mailing address access to products they never knew they wanted but suddenly can't live without. It has laid waste to awful, soul-destroying indoor shopping malls, and it plans to deliver your stuff faster than ever in the near future. Hooray for Amazon.

But Amazon knows it is great. It knows, too, that the leaders of most American cities would sell their children for the chance to land 50,000 new jobs and all the tax revenue that comes with them. That's the kind of deal that pays for every government program they've ever wanted. That's the kind of deal that could be a springboard to higher office. Amazon can pretty much ask for the moon, and officials will line up with baskets full of other people's money and promise to throw a lasso around it.

Davis/TNS/NewscomDavis/TNS/Newscom

The sheer number of the bids is staggering, not so much because of how many places want Amazon's second headquarters but because a good percentage of the bidding cities surely have no chance whatsoever of winning.

Amazon has been very clear about what it wants from a winning bid. It wants a metro area with more than a million people, with the actual site located within 30 miles of the population center and within 45 minutes of an international airport. It wants enough space to eventually build up to 8 million square feet of office space.

There are only so many places in America that fit that description—and even if you assume that every suburb within every major metropolitan area on the continent submitted a bid, it's still hard to fathom that there would be 238 of them. Gary, Indiana (population: 47,000) reportedly put together a bid. Sure, it's technically in the Chicago metro area, but come on. Upstate New York is lovely to visit in the autumn, but Syracuse (population: 143,000) is not a prime contender for Amazon's new HQ, no matter how hard local officials try to convince themselves that it is.

Gary and Syracuse—and other small or midsized cities that have experienced a drop in population and a surge in poverty—need something more than a pie-in-the-sky bid for a massive infusion of new jobs. There's no doubt that a major company like Amazon would revitalize a place like that, but there's nothing about Amazon's request (which also asks for "a stable and business-friendly environment" and "a community where our employees will enjoy living") that suggests their applications will get even a cursory glance.

That officials in places like that think it's worth their time and their city's resources to even bid for Amazon tells you something about the economic development mind set in many parts of America. You don't get a properous, thriving city by winning a single competition and being rewarded with a gargantuan number of new jobs. A properous, thriving city isn't something that can be won at all. Civic officials have to create the right environment for enterprises to start, grow, or relocate there. Among other things, that means not showing favoritism by granting special tax breaks or corporate welfare.

That's what officials in San Antonio decided to do when Amazon put out its call. Their city meets pretty much all of the requirements Amazon has outlined, but the South Texas metropolis is not amoung the 238 bids.

"We have a competitive toolkit of incentives, but blindly giving away the farm isn't our style," San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg wrote in an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos last week. Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, said the city's decision "serves as a testament to our dedication to be good stewards of the economic incentives San Antonio has to offer businesses."

If I were Bezos, that's the kind of place where I'd want to have my new headquarters.

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  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Tuscon even sent Amazon's CEO a 21-foot cactus, because why the hell not?

    Fuck yeah, why the hell not? Tucson is the "Why the Hell Not?" capital of the world. Fuck yeah.

  • Mitsima||

    But it's becoming a safe-space ninny nest.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Yes, we're a bunch of bitches down there and our Mayor looks like Tim Gunn. But I'm still gonna rah-rah it because I love it and I miss it.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Aww, look at all those Canadian provinces pretending to be real geopolitical entities.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    I'm proud of Saskatchewan and the fact that every single city in the entire province said "fuck it."

  • Citizen X - #6||

    There's no cities in Saskatchewan, fool!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    "Cities".

    Lol.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Both you god damned Cosmos need to get the fuck out of here.

  • Maven Houlihan||

    I love Regina!

  • Up To The Old Shenanigans||

    I would love to go to CFL game in Regina. I hear Roughriders fans are the most passionate in the CFL.

  • Up To The Old Shenanigans||

    Methinks that Saskatchewan and the city of Regina are still taking care of the newly-opened Mosaic Stadium and hence said, "We got enough on our plate right now." Roughriders fans will probably still be streaming into Regina decades from now.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Civic officials have to create the right environment for enterprises to start, grow, or relocate there.

    That sounds like a lot of work with very little short term, in-pocket gains. Let's just quick throw together special tax breaks and corporate welfare and hope it works.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    * Austin TX comes in first place, according to the overall rankings, followed by Atlanta and Philadelphia.

    * If an additional category—geography—is included, Philadelphia moves to first place and Pittsburgh moves to second place.

    If yet another category—assholery—is added, Filthacrapia moves into get the fuck out of here place.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    "Sure people keep throwing glass bottles filled with piss at our heads, but we're near New York AND DC!"

  • CE||

    Philadelphia, the city that booed Santa Claus.

  • Bubba Jones||

    There is NFW they move to a place as corrupt and beholden to unions as philly.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    If I were Bezos, I'd invite Kshama Sawant into my office, I'd then turn and bare my broad buttocks in her general direction, then politely tell her to get stuffed.

  • Sevo||

    Is this the Seattle commie swine who suggested Amazon be stolen by the government?

  • ||

    I liked Gary's bid. The only way it could've been more appropriately honest is if they'd listed the number of buildings Amazon could bulldoze as a feature.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    I am waiting for the places that just refuse to host the Amazon HQ.

    "We don't want your SJW employee agendas in our town".

    Amazon is going downhill anyways. Amazon is pushing private second-hand sellers out by upping fees and making it harder to resell merchandise that companies want exclusive rights to sell on Amazon. Plus, Amazon wastes millions on pipe dream ideas that are more pet projects than good business ideas.

    As Amazon's prices with taxes and shipping get closer to brick-and-mortar stores, another good online retailer will just probably step in.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    It would be funny if someone presented a bid with the hope of refusing them later.

  • Libertymike||

    In the immortal words of former New York Jets linebacker, Bart Scott, so elegantly expressed in the immediate aftermath of the Jets' stunning January 16, 2011 divisional playoff victory over the heavily favored New England Patriots (who had trounced the Jets, 45-3, just six weeks earlier on Monday Night Football),

    "CAN'T WAIT!"

  • Marty Feldman's Eyes||

    It would be awesome to see it rewarded to San Antonio and for Bezos to reveal that it was just a test and all along he was only interested in giving it to a city that didn't completely whore itself.

  • CE||

    You know who else told a would-be invading army of people who don't like Texans to stay away from San Antonio?

  • Kandralla||

    That's assuming that they don't want to play the Pro Sports game of whoring themselves out to the highest bidder.

    If Amazon is looking for a place to call home it'll be San Antonio... If there looking for a place that will put out they'll pick wherever. I'm a little surprised to see Mayor "I'm just like you" and his Pittsburgh brethern whoring it out to Amazon... They apparently forgot about how the US Airways thing went down.

  • CE||

    Promising not to rob you is not a giveaway.

  • CE||

    And what do you have against indoor shopping malls? Outdoor malls are terrible if you live somewhere hot, or somewhere cold, which is pretty much everywhere.

  • Sevo||

    Or rainy.

  • Fuck You - Cut Spending||

    A lot of this depends on whether Amazon sees their business as a tech company or as a logistics company. If the latter, the Milwaukee-Chicago-Detroit megalopolis makes a lot of sense. They could essentially take over the Gary airport, the South Shore train runs right by it, 8 million square feet would be easy to acquire, and you've got a business-friendly state.

    The Whole Foods acquisition seems to make Austin the front runner from a simplicity standpoint

  • Memory Hole||

    Speaking of whoring yourself have you seen the allegation that Steve Wynn and Donald Trump were going deport a Chinese dissident into the hands of the authoritarian Chinese government so that Wynn could score points and make some money. Trading dissidents for business opportunities seems like a crime.

  • Memory Hole||

    But don't worry Trump realized the dissident was also a member of his resort so there were checks and balances folks.

  • Sevo||

    No alt text?
    "Yeah, the bank is right over there!"

  • Overt||

    Amazon just opened a huge facility in Colorado, with an option to build another. The fact that they chose Colorado once makes me think they'll do it again. I wouldn't be surprised to see them choose denver

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Denver and Austin are the two most obvious choices to me. It would be surprising if they chose an old-world bastion like Boston or NYC. Particularly with their internal policy of thrift.

  • Ornithorhynchus||

    I'd like to see it go to one of the Mexican places just to see Trump freak out about it.

    I guess Queretaro has a reputation as one of the least objectionable places to live in Mexico. I figure the crime is too horrible in Chihuahua. Don't know much about Guanajuato.

  • BYODB||

    I'm curious to see if Amazon does indeed choose to locate itself in Austin. I'm curious because if they do so, the entire city will likely implode into a traffic jam that could last until the early 3000's.


    There is no way they could have infrastructure for that ready any time soon. Maybe in ten or fifteen years, if they start today. Maybe.

  • Overt||

    The thing about Austin is that there is a lot of real estate on the outskirts. If they go downtown, it could be trouble. But if they stay on the periphery, expect the Lake Travis property rates to go sky high.

  • Bubba Jones||

    Rockwall would be fine.

  • Bubba Jones||

    I mean round rock.

  • target||

    Incorporating their own city in Georgia, would be an interesting experiment. They could set up their own central hub, infrastructure, training and housing. They would be free to experiment with driver-less car or drone product delivery including grocery and/or prepared food. Basically a test site for any innovation they wanted without as much red tape every time they wanted to try something new.

  • Sevo||

    And the press, the state and fed gov't would be on them like stink on stuff.
    "Company town! Have to buy from company store! Indentured servants!"

  • Devastator||

    Lol except this time the company can actually sell you everything that you would ever need :D . Amazon Script(tm)

  • Sevo||

    Spoiler:
    7 squares.
    Four small (one unit sides), two medium (two unit sides) and one large (three).

  • Crazy mick||

    This is just the sports stadium shakedown and those idiotic movie production handouts on a massive scale. The "winning" city will get screwed guaranteed

  • Devastator||

    It's completely different than a stadium. I don't see amazon asking the cities to pay for the sex and also give a full reach-around.

  • Bubba Jones||

    San Antonio is a great place for abusiness but I don't think they have the airport connectivity that amazon will want.

  • David B.||

    My money is on them moving to Charlotte, NC

  • flyfishnevada||

    I'm all for competition and luring businesses to your state/county/city but when those companies get to operate in a completely different business environment that other businesses, that's just wrong. Luring bussinessed to Texas or Nevada where taxes and regulation are relatively low is one thing. But in places like New York and California where the average business operates within a tax and regulatory hell, it's sort of a slap in the face. Kind of like DirecTV giving the NFL package to new subscribers but making me pay for it.

  • Lester224||

    The problem with the race to give as many tax breaks as possible is that in the past, companies have gotten the breaks but not delivered on the jobs. It's a balance sheet calculation to give tax breaks if the jobs do come through.

    You always need good claw-back provisions when you pour out the corporate welfare, especially if you contribute major infrastructure which could become a road-to-nowhere when the jobs don't show up.

    Amazon seems like a pretty good bet for delivering the jobs it offers.

    Low tax rates and less regulation is not the only incentive. They want good colleges in the area and a big already-educated workforce. That's why they take a second look at places like Boston, N.Y. and California even if the other factors aren't as favorable.

  • Cloudbuster||

    It has laid waste to awful, soul-destroying indoor shopping malls,

    Weird. I spent many a day in indoor shopping malls in my youth and I am unable to detect any soul-related destruction.

  • Trollificus||

    Yeah, we had small children during the hay-day of indoor malls and we all have fond memories of the varied activities and rewards we got from patronizing them, sometimes for large portions of a whole day. I understand the 'conventional wisdom' now regarding such facilities is that very "soul-destroying" cliche, but I don't think it's really been analyzed for justification or rationality...it's just 'conventional wisdom'.

    Now, you wanna talk 'soul-destroying', examine examples of conventional wisdom.

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