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WASHINGTON – Amazon.com Inc.'s planned second headquarters in North Virginia removed a key test on Saturday when local officials approved a proposed $ 51 million financial package in a small but vocal opposition.
In November, Amazon chose National Landing, a site owned by Arlington County and 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 broke 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 5 members voted 5-0 in favor of Amazon to receive the financial package after a seven-hour meeting in a room filled with up to 150 citizens and representatives of local trade unions and minority responsibilities groups.
There was strong opposition from some residents and working groups, many of whom sang "shame" and waved slogans, including "Don't be contrary to Robinhood," "Amazon overworks and underpays," and "Advocate for us and not Amazon. " A protest was escorted out of the meeting by the police.
A few dozen demonstrators outside the county municipality sang: "The people who are united will never be defeated."
Danny Candejas, an organizer of the coalition "For Us, Not Amazon," who opposes the company's movement in the area, said: "We are fighting to ensure that people living here are not priced by wealthy people."
Some supporters in the meeting held up characters 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, and forced the chairman Christian Dorsey to cut the talk time to two minutes, from three for each ordinary speaker and to four minutes from five for representatives for organizations.
Many speakers who opposed the Amazon headquarters were especially opposed to direct incentives, referring to rising housing costs, the likely shift of low-income families, accelerated by construction workers, and lack of investment guarantees in affordable housing funds.
"Speculators are already driving up house prices, landlords are getting rents and general contractors are increasing quotes for improvement projects," said a resident, Hunter Tamarro.
Communities, including the AFL-CIO, protested against Amazon not signing a project work contract with wage and benefit protectors for employees hired to build the new buildings.
But supporters like June O & # 39; Connell said the Amazon presence would ensure that Arlington is allocated state funds for investment in transportation and higher education. "I want the money from the state," said O & # 39; Connell. "Without Amazon, we wouldn't get a penny from it."
Holly 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.
"About incentives, Amazon is only eligible for the financial incentive after we have invested and occupied office space in the community," she said.
Dorsey, the board of directors, 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. Amazon has also been offered a $ 750 million package by the state that the Virginia General Assembly approved with little resistance.
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 taxes at the Arlington hotel room. The contribution is conditional on Amazon occupying six million square meters of office space during the first 16 years.
Arlington has also offered to invest around $ 28 million over 10 years of future real estate income rather than infrastructure and open space at 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."