In the wake of reports that Amazon could be pulling out of its plan to build its second headquarters in New York City, Gov. Ned Lamont SOM ’80 has recently announced plans to woo the internet retail giant to Connecticut.
The Washington Post — which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acquired for $250 million in 2013 — published a report on Friday announcing Amazon’s decision to reconsider other cities for its “HQ2” location, due to opposition from New York City politicians and neighborhood activists. Shortly after the announcement, Lamont fired off a pair of tweets to reiterate the state’s interest in hosting the company.
“Upon the 1st indication – days ago – that there may be trouble with @Amazon’s proposed deal with #NY, we mobilized our new Partnership to Advance the Connecticut of Tomorrow – and more specifically, [Connecticut Economic Resource Center] co-chairs Indra Nooyi and Jim Smith, to construct a path forward,” Lamont tweeted on Feb. 8. “The state has already made an outreach to @Amazon through its in-state representation, and we are looking forward to expanding the dialogue.”
In November, Amazon decided on Queens and Arlington, Virginia as the locations for its two new headquarters, while their primary base remained in Seattle, Washington. Amazon planned to invest more than $5 billion in the project, promising each city 25,000 full-time jobs with an average salary exceeding $150,000 a year, according to an announcement last year.
New York reportedly offered Amazon $2 billion in tax breaks to build the new headquarters in Queens, according to a New York Times report in November. In a November press conference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo — who joked he’d change his name to ‘Amazon’ to win the company’s business — said the plan was “the largest economic development initiative that has ever been done by the city or the state or the city and the state, together.”
However, many New York politicians and residents voiced concerns with the Amazon partnership, particularly the city’s willingness to give tax breaks and incentives to Amazon rather than putting that money towards public schools, housing and transit systems in Queens. According to the New York Times, the magnitude of local and political backlash ultimately led to the company’s reconsideration of its choice.
While the company is reportedly still working on a compromise with New York officials, Connecticut has jumped on the opportunity following Amazon’s announcement of further consideration of other potential cities.
During Amazon’s initial search for a HQ2 host in October 2016, New Haven, in conjunction with Bridgeport, submitted a proposal to host the new Amazon.com Inc. headquarters. The New Haven–Bridgeport proposal would have provided the company with roughly 8 million square feet of office space. In addition, major statewide officials praised a Hartford–Stamford joint offer. But on Jan. 18, Amazon released a list of 20 finalist cities out of the 238 that had submitted proposals, none of which were in Connecticut.
In response to Amazon’s rejection of Connecticut’s bid to become a host state, former-Gov. Dannel Malloy said that while Amazon’s feedback was “positive,” Connecticut “did not have a large enough metropolitan area for this particular proposal.”
In her “State of the City” speech in 2018, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp voiced her disappointment at Amazon’s decision, but added that the city and surrounding regions would become economic powerhouses in the years to come, regardless of the company’s absence.
“I remain willing to match Greater New Haven’s talent pool, market accessibility, quality of life, and cultural amenities with literally any other American city,” she said in her speech.
Because Amazon has previously deemed Connecticut cities unfit to host their new headquarters, it is unclear how they will line up with other contenders such as Newark, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, who were all on the company’s short list of host cities.
In the state’s 2017 press conference announcing the city’s official pitch to Amazon, former Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner Catherine Smith said the opportunity to host Amazon’s second headquarters “is worth making a fight for.”
“This proposal is the culmination of a lot of hard work at both the state and local level,” she said during the press conference.
Connecticut is still recovering from the economic recession that lasted from 2007 to 2009. According to 2018 reports from the bureaus of Economic Analysis and Labor Statistics, Connecticut remains the only state since 2010 with negative growth in gross state product, a monetary measure of a state’s total economic production.
Due to the state’s fiscal crisis, it is unclear what tax breaks or other financial incentives, if any, the state could offer to Amazon.
According to Edward Mattison LAW ’68, chair of New Haven’s City Plan Commission, New Haven and other cities in Connecticut do not have the appropriate infrastructure to support a deal of this size.
“The city of Amazon’s new headquarters would essentially have to create a new town of 25,000 families,” Mattison told the News. “So the city and state have to pay for the building and operating costs of things like new mass transit systems, schools, and housing, and those are costs that no city in Connecticut can really afford.”
It is uncertain whether Amazon will ultimately decide to pull out of its deal with Queens. Still, Lamont has insisted that Connecticut is a viable state to host one of the company’s headquarters.
Amazon was incorporated by Jeff Bezos in 1994.
Caroline Moore | firstname.lastname@example.org