VA, TN expect Amazon HQ2 to proceed as planned after NY shock withdrawal
After Amazon’s shock decision to scrap its second headquarters (HQ2) for New York City, leaders in Arlington County, VA and Nashville, TN said they do not expect any changes on their respective deals.
Amazon announced Thursday it was withdrawing from the Long Island City neighborhood in the face of significant local political opposition, pulling out of its commitment to add 25,000 jobs in the neighborhood. But with the company set to add another 25,000 jobs in Arlington County, local leaders in Virginia said they are hopeful of not receiving any further bombshells.
“When it comes to Arlington, everything that we have put on the table and offered, Amazon has leaned in and embraced,” Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey told reporters on a conference call. “I don't see that as being a cause for concern here.”
In announcing its move away from New York, Amazon officials said they “do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time,” after a bidding war of more than a year between upwards of 200 cities and local jurisdictions. Since announcing its decision in November, lawmakers in the Virginia General Assembly easily approved an incentives package for the company, with Arlington set for 25,000 jobs in the next decade but with the capacity to take on almost 38,000.
Dorsey said while Arlington could accommodate the company’s full complement of 50,000 employees in its Crystal City and Pentagon City neighborhoods — dubbed “National Landing” — he does not think the county will pitch itself as an alternative site for the relocated New York City jobs. In its announcement, Amazon said it would look to distribute those jobs at its existing sites across the United States.
“We don't have the need, we don't see the need, to make a play, whatever that would look like, to have them fully bring all their planned New York investments here,” Dorsey said. “We're very happy with what they've planned and we're going to continue as if that's going to be their trajectory.”
Officials in Nashville, meanwhile, appear bullish on the prospect of adding more employees than previously planned. In addition to announcing Northern Virginia and New York City as its two HQ2 locations last November, Amazon also announced it would open a new Operations Center of Excellence in Nashville, resulting in 5,000 full-time jobs.
And while Nashville Mayor David Briley said in a statement to the Nashville Tennessean that the city’s relationship with the company would remain unchanged, representatives with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce said they would happily step into the breach.
"If there is another opportunity for additional jobs from Amazon or any other company, we will evaluate the project and respond appropriately," chamber spokeswoman Dawn Cornelius told the outlet. "We continue to be excited about Amazon’s announced expansion here. It is an important, positive economic development for our region. It will mean thousands more jobs and opportunities for all of Middle Tennessee."
The move could serve to galvanize local grassroots groups that have opposed the HQ2 plan and the incentives packages that elected leaders negotiated with Amazon. In a Facebook post, grassroots activist organization Our Revolution Arlington called the decision “a great day for people power,” and pledged to “continue the struggle down here.” In a statement, international consumer watchdog association SumOfUs warned Arlington and Nashville that Amazon could pull a similar move if they run into more opposition.
“Instead of proving themselves as a responsible corporate neighbor willing to work with the city, Amazon fled the moment their massive giveaway was at risk,” SumOfUs spokeswoman Jamila Brown said in a statement. “This should be a warning sign to other cities — Amazon isn’t interested in strengthening your community or harnessing local talent, they’re interested in your money.”
Dorsey said while he expects local opposition to intensify somewhat in light of Amazon’s decision to pull HQ2 from New York City, Arlington is already prepared for the extra employees and said there is plenty of public opinion on their side already.
“In Arlington, we have had these difficult community conversations about growth and about the particular areas that Amazon is looking to occupy, and our community is ready to embrace that level of activity,” Dorsey said.
And in terms of the county’s relationship with Amazon, Dorsey said it remains as strong as ever, ahead of a March 16 vote on a local incentives package.
“Our dealings with Amazon have been collegial, collaborative, they haven't asked anything from us other than what we've said to our community that we're willing to offer,” Dorsey said. “In that sense, they've been a completely honest broker and we feel good about our relationship with them thus far.”
Follow Chris Teale on Twitter