WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc.'s planned second headquarters in Northern Virginia cleared a key test Saturday when local officials approved a proposed financial package worth an estimated $ 51 million in a small but vocal opposition.
People move in front of the roost room before a press conference on the announcement that Crystal City has been chosen as the home of Amazon's new headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, USA November 13, 2018. REUTERS / Kevin Lamarque
Amazon in November picked the National Landing , an area jointly owned by Arlington County and the city of Alexandria, just outside Washington, along with New York City for its so-called HQ2 or other headquarters. It followed a year-long search where hundreds of municipalities, from Newark, New Jersey, to Indianapolis, competed for the coveted tax dollars and high pay jobs the project promises.
In February, Amazon suddenly cleared plans to build part of its second headquarters in the New York City Queens after opposition from local leaders attacked by incentives promised by state and city politicians.
Arlington County Council with five members voted 5-0 in favor of Amazon to receive the finance package after a seven-hour meeting in a room filled with up to 150 citizens and representatives of local unions and minority presidency groups.
There was strong opposition from some residents and working groups, many of whom sang "shame" and waved slogans, including "Do not be opposed to Robinhood", "Amazon overworks and underpays" and "Advocate for us and not Amazon." A protest was escorted by the police.
A few dozen protesters outside the county municipality sang: "The people who are united will never be defeated."
Danny Candejas, an organizer of the "For Us, Not Amazon" coalition, which opposes the company's moves in the area, said: "We are struggling to make sure people living here are not priced by wealthy people."
Some followers in the meeting held signs that said "vote yes" and "Amazon is first class for Arlington".
One hundred and twelve people were enrolled to speak, an unusually high number for a local county community, and forced the chairman Christian Dorsey to cut the talked minutes into two minutes, from three to every ordinary speaker and to four minutes, from five, for representatives of organizations.
Many speakers who opposed the Amazon headquarters were particularly opposed to direct incentives, referring to rising housing costs, likely offsetting low-income families, accelerated construction worker workers, and lack of investment guarantees in affordable housing funds.
"Speculators are already running up home prices, landlords getting rentals and general contractors are increasing quotes for home improvement projects," said a resident, Hunter Tamarro.
Communities, including the AFL-CIO, protested against Amazon, without signing a labor and benefit guarantee contract for employees hired to build the new buildings.
But supporters like June O & # 39; Connell said the Amazon presence would ensure that Arlington was allocated state funds for investment in transport and higher education. "I want the money from the state," said O & # 39; Connell. "Without Amazon, we wouldn't get a penny from it."
Holmes Sullivan, Amazon's worldwide economic development leader, spoke briefly and said the company would invest around $ 2.5 billion, creating more than 25,000 jobs with an average salary of over $ 150,000, which will generate more than $ 3, 2 billion in tax revenues.
"With regard to incentives, Amazon is only eligible for the financial incentive after we have invested and occupied office space in the community," she said.
Dorsey, the chairman of the board, had said before the vote that he expected the measure to pass. He said the rejection of Amazon would not solve society's problems and concerns, and that this was the first agreement the county has hit where new revenue growth will be used to fund it.
To be sure, the approval voted for an estimated $ 51 million, a fraction of $ 481 million promised by the county. Only 5 percent of incentives are direct. Also, Amazon has been offered a $ 750 million package by the state that the Virginia General Assembly approved with little opposition.
The $ 51 million includes a controversial direct financial incentive or cash grant of $ 23 million to Amazon over 15 years, which will be collected from the Arlington hotel room tax. The grant is conditional on Amazon occupying six million square meters of office space over the first 16 years.
Arlington has also offered to invest around $ 28 million over 10 years of future property tax revenue rather than infrastructure and open space at the headquarters.
An application on the County's website says $ 23 million scholarships and $ 28 million in strategic public infrastructure investments were "instrumental in Amazon choosing Arlington for its headquarters."
Reporting of Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Richard Chang and Daniel Wallis