WHEN AMAZON last week announced plans to build a $5 billion second headquarters in North America, officials from sea to shining sea immediately began to clamor for the privilege of hosting the new facility. Mayors of cities as diverse as Pittsburgh, Dallas, and Toronto declared their intention to vie for Amazon’s favor. Newsrooms ordered up stories on the frenzy: “Charlottewants to be home to Amazon’s $5 billion second headquarters.” “Minnesota rushes to bid for Amazon’s second headquarters.” “Virginia plans to be ‘aggressive and competitive’ to land project.”
Naturally, Boston and Massachusetts are getting in on the act.
“If Amazon wants an East Coast headquarters, I don’t see any city better in America than Boston, Massachusetts,” proclaimed Mayor Marty Walsh. His administration, he said, would be “laser-focused” on landing the project.
Amazon says it is seeking to build its new home in a metropolitan area with a large population, an international airport, and good schools. But as everyone understands, it also expect to be courted with publicly-funded “incentives” — some combination of property-tax abatements, job-creation credits, direct grants, sales-tax refunds, land-acquisition assistance, and the other varieties of corporate welfare that governments have concocted to lure businesses. Amazon knows how the economic-redevelopment game is played in what The Economist calls this “sweet land of subsidy.” (Just this week, Wisconsin agreed to pay Foxconn a staggering $3 billion in subsidies to construct a flat-screen factory in the state.) If cities and states are determined to compete for Amazon’s new campus by showering it with fistfuls of taxpayer dollars, the company can’t be blamed for pocketing the largesse.