Amazon is opening a new $5 billion headquarters in a mystery location- and it could transform the chosen city
- Amazon is opening a new headquarters, HQ2, somewhere in North America. It will employ up to 50,000 people, most of them white-collar workers.
- Economists and urban planners say the move could fundamentally change how the selected city ends up functioning, given Amazon's impact on Seattle over the past two decades.
- Massive economic gains could lead to prosperity for some while displacing others if city officials don't make room for them.
Amazon recently announced it will spend $5 billion on its second North American headquarters, which the company said will eventually house 50,000 employees.Amazon has yet to provide many details about the new headquarters, including its location, as cities are currently free to bid on hosting the new HQ. But based on how Amazon has transformed Seattle over the past two decades, economists and urban planning experts can predict how the move might impact the selected area.
Seattle is a good test case. It's hard to overstate the impact 40,000 employees working across 33 office buildings, which total 8.1 million square feet, have had throughout the city. As The Seattle Times said in a recent article, Amazon has effectively turned Seattle, the fastest-growing US city, into the country's largest company town.
Aaron Renn, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, speculated recently that Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Atlanta could be the strongest contenders. Each has a sizable population near or below the poverty line, however, which should motivate city governments to keep things like affordable housing in mind when bidding.
"While a new Amazon headquarters could be a boon for many communities," Rainwater said, "city officials will have to weigh the impact it could have on the broader economy and ensure that the economic growth it brings would be both equitable and sustainable."
"As cities plan for the future, they must ensure economic development is approached equitably, and that it will provide opportunities for all members of their communities," Rainwater said.
Given that Amazon's 50,000 employees will be mostly white-collar workers making, on average, north of $100,000 a year (based on the typical Amazon salary), the chosen city will no doubt have greater spending power. But city officials have a responsibility to ensure the lower- and middle-class workers won't get priced out, and displaced, by such economic booms, Rainwater said.
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