Arlington Could Spend $11.5 Million to Do What?

Let’s see now. Arlington County offered $29 million in incentives to land the economic development coup of the decade, Amazon’s HQ2 project. Now, according to the Washington Business Journal, the County Board is considering granting another $11.5 million in incentives to keep the Drug Enforcement Administration in town. Are you kidding me?

Citizens are raising legitimate concerns that the influx of 25,000 Amazon employees will drive up housing costs and displace lower-income residents and make Northern Virginia’s overloaded roads and highways even more congested. I have argued that the benefit to Arlington — increased economic dynamism and diversification — is worth the millions of dollars worth of enticements. But let’s not pretend there isn’t a cost.

Who needs to bribe the DEA when you’ve got Amazon coming? And not just Amazon, but all the vendors, partners, spin-offs, and other enterprises that will become part of the Amazon ecosystem. What does the DEA bring to the table? Economic diversification? Hah! The DEA perpetuates dependency upon the federal government. Economic dynamism? Laugh out loud! The DEA is a government bureaucracy.

Indeed as the WBJ’s Daniel J. Sernovitz points out, Arlington’s incentives represent an unhealthy competition with neighboring Alexandria, which also is vying for the DEA project. The Board is scheduled to vote on the matter later this month.

The only beneficiary from the subsidy that I can glean from the WBJ article is Clarion Partners, owner of the DEA’s current office space. If the DEA leaves, it might take Clarion a few years to fill the building back up — as it surely will be able to do as Amazon expands its presence nearby. My heart bleeds — NOT — for Clarion. Why on earth would Arlington want to spend $11.5 million to retain an office tenant of no strategic value when it will need every dollar it can lay its hands on to deal with the growth challenges posed by Amazon?

I would be astonished if the Arlington Board approves the incentives.

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3 responses to “Arlington Could Spend $11.5 Million to Do What?

  1. Don’t look now but Fredericksburg would LOVE to have the DEA as well as any other government agency!

    And most localities that have Military bases KILL to get them and keep them or take them away from other localities!

    Would Hampton dry up and blow away without military shipbuilding and maintenance?

    The reality is – all that money we spend on “Defense”, it’s not only the military, it’s the alphabet soup of Govt Law enforcement – like the DEA, BATF, homeland security, NSA, DIA, etc, etc..

    If you look at the total number of jobs in NOVA – and the percent of “govt” – it’s writ large and govt employees power the private economy just as well as private sector employees.

  2. A whole new avenue of G2G, with the G’s being Greed and Graft. An incentive to lower the rent to a federal agency that is moving a couple of miles within the same state…incredible. I think VEDP does a fairly good job of staying out of situations where on Virginia locality is poaching on another, but frankly I’d be open to a discussion at the GA about whether it should also prevent the practice period. The same local governments are in Richmond every year with their begging bowls.

    • I agree with you, Steve. Arlington now is far better off without DEA and its typical Darth Vader building. Why would Alexandria want it, either? To get in a bidding war over this white elephant in the worlds hottest location is absurd. These local governments are taking worse practices imaginable to all time record lows.

      Synergy is the right game here, not smothering it.

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