Arlington Welcomes Amazon 5-0 As Crowd Screams

Crowd at Arlington Board meeting Saturday March 16. Source: Arlington Now

The Arlington Board of Supervisors endured six hours of public hearing marked by local hooligans screaming at Amazon company representatives, then voted 5-0 Saturday for the modest local incentive package negotiated to bring the tech giant to a new location near Reagan National Airport and Crystal City.

A review of the final county staff presentation (here) puts the $51 million in identified incentives, spread out over several years, side by side with the $174 million in projected local taxes over the first 12 years, and the $342 million in local taxes over the first 16 years.  Those assume Amazon hits 25,000 employees by around 2030 and 37,850 employees by around 2034, and ultimately occupies 6 million square feet of owned and rented office space.  

That top projected employment total also draws down the maximum $750 million in state grants authorized by the Virginia General Assembly.

Projected Amazon-related local transportation spending. Source: Arlington County staff slides. Click for larger view.

You get a choice – you can read about the Arlington approval of its Amazon incentive package in the news outlet owned by billionaire Jeffrey Bezos, who founded Amazon, or the news outlet owned by the competing billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

Here’s a snippet from the Washington Post:

“The opponents — led by left-wing groups and immigrants’ organizations — stepped up their catcalls and interruptions when Amazon executives began testifying directly to the board after the public hearing. They did not relent even when Dorsey warned that he might have them removed, and their shouting led the board, its staff and the Amazon representatives to leave the room for about 15 minutes shortly after 6 p.m.”  

The Amazon staff then did not return for the remainder of the meeting.

Many opposed giving any form of economic incentive to any company, but others were simply seeking to shake down the company and the county for money that directly benefited them. It was price, not principle, driving them.  Well-known Virginia union activist Virginia Diamond complained that Amazon has not agreed to a project labor agreement on any future construction projects.  Rent-seeking comes in all forms.

If the Antifa tactics and social justice rhetoric copied from New York were going to work anywhere in Virginia, the People’s Republic of Arlington would have been the place.  It fell flat, perhaps in part because even the left wing in New York has figured out 1) it really screwed up and 2) it handed Republicans evidence that many Democrats hate business and fear prosperity.  Here is Bloomberg on that point.

Plus Arlington taxpayers actually have no reason to complain.  If Virginia is going to offer tax rebates advertised as per-new-job incentives to draw in business, and Amazon is hardly the first but is merely the largest example to date, then this approach with its emphasis on transportation and higher education and post-performance incentives is reasonable.

It is, however, quite a precedent and sets a new standard for future deals.  The first question in every C Suite will be, what did the last deal receive?  How high did Virginia go last time?

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3 responses to “Arlington Welcomes Amazon 5-0 As Crowd Screams

  1. Judy wanted to point out that ugly public hearing behavior these days is not restricted only to “antifa”. It’s becoming much more common for all “opponents” left and right.

    While I support the Amazon project including the State and local incentives, I think there is little doubt that housing affordability and traffic congestion are going to be adversely affected and those impacts are being papered over and the opponents have a real point.

    I don’t know how you “fix” it to be honest but I think something can be done for housing which ought to seek to bring together – both the left leaning folks who would have the govt responsible by doing “govt” things like subsidies and rent control and the right-leaning folks who say that govt could ease zoning restrictions.

    These days in place like Arlington, when we say “affordable housing” – we are also talking about increased commuting to “affordable housing” and the concomitant impacts from it.

    The Smart Growth folks actually want to make Arlington unfriendly to commuting and more friendly to walk, bike, and transit.

    I’ll say this, I’d give Arlington a better chance of real responses that might work than other jurisdictions.

    But in terms of “ruffians” , I note that Richmond bailed out on letting folks demonstrate on monument avenues.. something Arlington did not do. 😉

  2. Hey Jim – you forgot Foxconn. That is scary enough for any individual to act like Antifa.

  3. I never understood the “affordable” debate when it comes to housing or health care. It always has to remain affordable or the masses can’t purchase the service or goods and the service ceases to exist or the goods must drop in price to meet the consumer.
    That is not to say the price isn’t painful or the consumer must forgo other goods in order to obtain the high priced goods. Although I do predict NOVA will get some new tent cities ala Seattle, San Fran, and LA. And it will be deemed against housing justice to remove them.
    If housing costs or congestion is too much in NOVA- move. If you don’t like what your Board of Supervisors or City Council did- vote them out.
    And get used to government picking winners. The new socialism, social justice, economic justice, and environmental justice must be levied by someone. It will be the morally superior who will make these choices for you. Get ready for “fairness” which will only lead to extreme unfairness as someone will need to eventually pick up the tab. Here in RVA the opening salvo is a 0.09$ property tax hike along with a large reassessment.

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