Thursday, Amazon said that they’d be setting up a second headquarters—and it won’t be in Seattle. The announcement seems like it’s amplified a lot of complicated existing feelings about the online giant and the effect the company’s growth has had on the city’s fabric.
That doesn’t mean they’re packing up and leaving anytime soon—“It will be a full equal to our current campus in Seattle,” reads the announcement. But it could mean a slowdown on the company’s stronghold. Their rapid growth means they currently occupy 19 percent of Seattle’s prime business real estate, and they’ve been frequently cited as a driving force behind Seattle’s rising housing costs.
There’s good reason for that speculation: According to data from Zillow, home values have gone up have up 83 percent and rents have increased by 47 percent since Amazon moved into their South Lake Union headquarters in 2010. While every generation of Seattle renters are highly rent-burdened, according to one report, another report says tech workers in Seattle spend less of their income on housing than anywhere else.
Business groups jumped to defend Amazon—although they hadn’t asked for it—against Seattle’s business environment. The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce said “our region to put aside our differences and unite around efforts to remain competitive to employers like Amazon.”
City councilor Tim Burgess stepped in to counter this in an interview with the Seattle Times. “[Amazon] talked about how they have 5,000 to 6,000 open positions in Seattle right now and they intend to fill those,” he said. “I interpret this as them continuing to grow.”
Both mayoral candidates quickly issued statements. Jenny Durkan cited Amazon’s wish to recruit more talent, saying “we should find ways to expanding educational opportunities so Seattle residents can fill our high-skilled jobs.” Cary Moon said she’d “be happy to work with Amazon to make Seattle more affordable, improve our transit, and invest in quality public education for everyone,” but that she’s “not interested” in a Boeing-esque “bidding war” if Amazon “isn't serious about helping to pay for the impacts of their rapid growth on our city.”
City councilor Kshama Sawant also compared the announcement to Boeing’s move to Chicago. Councilor Lisa Herbold said the move “gives us a little breathing room to build good mass transit, ensure affordable housing and open up pathways into higher education for the future workforce.”
Meanwhile, other city and state leaders have kicked into high gear in determining Amazon’s future here. Mayor Ed Murray said he’d “immediately begin conversations” with them about the future. Governor Jay Inslee’s office said he’d be in touch about expansion opportunities in-state.
Mostly, the announcement raises a lot of questions: How will Amazon’s relationship with the city change with a second headquarters? Could a cap on Amazon’s growth slow down Seattle’s development and real estate boom? Is Seattle somehow to blame for the announcement? Are other local cities, like Everett and Tacoma, even in the running? Is Seattle continuing to hold Amazon’s growth an option?
Local discussion seems to boil down to one central question, though: Has Amazon been a net positive for Seattle, or has their presence here caused more harm than good?
Sound off on your thoughts to these questions—and where you think they’ll lay down their second set of roots (in Hell?)—below.
- Amazon announces plans for new HQ in North America [Curbed]
- Thanks to Amazon, Seattle is now America’s biggest company town [Seattle Times]
- Every generation of Seattle renters is highly rent-burdened, report says [CS]
- Seattle tech workers have the highest rate of disposable income [CS]
- Amazon HQ2: Guess Which Mayoral Candidate Compared Amazon to Boeing? [The Stranger]
- Amazon plan echoes Boeing’s move to Chicago, but differences are crucial [Seattle Times]
- Amazon’s announcement of HQ outside of Seattle sends ripples through state’s political circles [Seattle Times]
- Could Amazon’s HQ bombshell let the air out of Seattle’s housing and development boom? [Seattle Times]
- Amazon to build second headquarters — do Everett or Tacoma stand a chance? [KUOW]
- Seattle should make a pitch to be Amazon’s 2nd headquarters [Vox]
- Amazon’s new HQ: How cities are making their case [Curbed]