Newark Makes List of 20 Finalists for Amazon HQ2
by Josh Anderson
NEWARK, NJ — New Jersey officials and business leaders got some good news late last week — Newark is among 20 finalists remaining in the competition to be the home of Amazon’s second headquarters (HQ2). Newark has pushed hard for the honor, since the arrival of the retail giant would bring 50,000 jobs and $5 Billion in investment with it.
With strong support from former Governor Christie as well as Newark Mayor Baraka and Senator Cory Booker, New Jersey submitted Newark’s bid to Amazon in October, and offered $7 Billion in tax breaks (likely to be the largest tax incentive offered by any city, according to reports). New Jersey is hoping that their proximity to New York City, a well as its major airport will sit well with Amazon, who has said they are looking for a city where its employees will want to live and play. They seek a city of at least 1 million residents that is both walkable and transit-oriented, as well as an educated workforce and institutions of higher education.
While Newark does tick many of those boxes, observers have pointed out that Newark has its drawbacks when compares to many of its competitors. Newark definitely doesn’t fit the mold when it comes to one item on Amazon’s list — affordable housing. On top of that, New Jersey’s notoriously high property taxes add insult to injury, and the recent tax overhaul isn’t likely to help the Garden State gloss over this issue.
Interestingly, newly arrived Governor Phil Murphy has expressed a bit of skepticism about New Jersey’s proposed tax breaks. “If you’re in Alabama, you’re selling tax incentives—with all due respect to Alabama—because what else are you going to sell?” remarked Murphy last fall in an interview. “In New Jersey, you’ve got location, public education, highly educated workforce, density, diversity, infrastructure.” And from a wider perspective, New Jersey has had some critics: over the weekend Saturday Night Live skewered their proposal, and Curbed called the tax breaks a “sellout” and warned that Amazon might see the “hand out” as a potential P/R nightmare.
Concentrated on the East Coast, South and Midwest (an expected move, since Amazon’s calls Seattle home), the twenty municipalities still in the running include Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Ohio, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Miami, Montgomery County, Md., Nashville, Newark, New York City, Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, N.C., Toronto and Washington, D.C. These were selected from over two hundred proposals spanning the entirety of North America.
However, the presence of a trio of Mid-Atlantic municipalities — Northern Virginia, Montgomery County, MD, and Washington, D.C. to mean that the capital region is the clear front-runner. This isn’t entirely surprising, since another criterion in Amazon’s collection was access to an airport with daily flights to NYC, San Francisco, Seattle, and D.C. Nine of the twenty finalist are within a 90-minute flight of the District of Columbia.
“In addition to Amazon’s direct hiring and investment, construction and operation of HQ2 is expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community,” reads Amazon’s official announcement. “Amazon estimates its investments in Seattle from 2010 through 2016 resulted in an additional $38 billion to the city’s economy – every dollar invested by Amazon in Seattle generated an additional $1.40 for the city’s economy overall.” Amazon plans to make their final decision sometime in 2018, after extensive communication with each of the twenty finalist cities.