City Buyer Beware: Not Even Amazon Is a Sure Bet
It’s rosy at best to presume that the next 20 years will be as kind to Amazon as the last 20. Local taxpayers shouldn’t bear the risk of the corporation’s financial future.
Amazon’s announcement of HQ2, a second headquarters, is about to set off an incentive arms race among state and local officials bidding for its economic promise. Elected leaders will leap at the chance to recruit Amazon, a widely admired technology company that has led development of some of the most powerful technologies of the 21st century, from cloud computing to smart speakers to drone delivery. The company employs more than 350,000 people and has grown more than 40 percent in a year.
Amazon’s rapid job growth and strong market position suggest that the company’s promise of 50,000 jobs in HQ2 is as sure a bet as can be found in economic development. But technologies evolve unpredictably, and today’s market leader—even one as admired as Amazon— may take a tumble tomorrow. As state and local officials prepare to open public coffers to recruit HQ2, they should make sure taxpayers are protected if the company’s fortunes turn.