When Amazon announced its new headquarters would be split between New York City and Northern Virginia, not everyone in those communities considered it a "win." Now that the tech giant has backed out of the deal it had with The Big Apple over pushback, critics of the Arlington County location have become more energized in their opposition.
What are the details?
HQ2 opponents in Arlington County are meeting at community forums, organizing in hopes of convincing officials to claw back the $23 million incentive package being weighed for Amazon at the local level, the Washington Business Journal reported. The state has already signed a law promising the company workforce cash grants of up to $750 million if it creates 37,850 jobs, according to the Journal.
Roshan Abraham, an organizer with the opposition group, Our Revolution Arlington, told the Journal, "The county should vote down the deal," arguing that Amazon is already getting a sweetheart deal from the state. She said one of the world's richest companies doesn't need the county's money, and "if Amazon chooses not to come to Arlington over $23 million, good riddance."
Dr. Michael Farren of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University agrees, but says the numbers are actually higher — $51 million in total local subsidies were promised by politicians, and $1.05 billion from the state.
In a statement to TheBlaze, he wrote, "It's unlikely that Amazon will change its mind if Arlington refuses to hand over $51 million" given the state incentives.
"At this point, Virginia could renegotiate the deal it's already made because of its stronger bargaining position as the last selected HQ2 candidate," he wrote.
The opposition groups in Arlington County aren't the only people pushing back against Amazon's expansion plans. In Nashville — where the company is planning to build a massive operations center — groups like Stand Up Nashville are speaking out against plans to bring 5,000 jobs to the downtown area over concerns about already-spiking rents, stagnant wages, and traffic congestion in the city.
Is there a solution?
Amazon's HQ2 and operation center plans have prompted a broader public discussion about the costs and benefits associated with schemes labeled as "government incentives," "economic development," and "corporate welfare."
According to Farren, these debates have caused folks of all political stripes to question government's role in luring firms.
"It's encouraging for me that this is becoming a bipartisan issue," he told TheBlaze. "Legislators on both sides of the aisle have proposed a pact between the states prohibiting subsidies that benefit particular companies or industries.
"This offers a way out of the prisoner's dilemma that incentivizes politicians to offer these subsidies," he explained.