“Let another city ‘win’”: Some locals are saying no thanks to an Amazon headquarters in Denver
As Colorado entered the race Wednesday with its bid to entice Amazon to open its second headquarters in metro Denver, some locals are saying no thanks to the retail giant and its promise of up to 50,000 new jobs and a $5 billion investment.
“No, no, no – let another city ‘win,'” said Jeff Medaugh on Twitter. “Increased traffic, single employer, higher housing prices, quality of life issues – remember the oil economy here?”
No, no, no – let another city “win” https://t.co/DGSTuFWfMQ
— jeff_medaugh (@jeff_medaugh) October 18, 2017
In case u didn’t know, I am absolutely against Denver courting @amazon. Thisll have costly side effects 4 current residents and environment
— 👻🎃Li-BOOO-rian🎃👻 (@eep525) October 18, 2017
Good. I hope they go to SLC. Denver does’t need housing to go any higher.
— Johnny Prodguru (@JProdguru) October 18, 2017
Concerns are partly about corporate welfare but more so on the potential impact to those already living here. The threat of increased traffic, the rise in unaffordable housing, the burden on the city’s infrastructure and the impact on lower-income citizens rise to the top.
“How will Amazon make sure the jobs they create are available to people who have lived here for years?” Felicia Griffin, with Wheat Ridge-based community group United For A New Economy, said in a statement. “…The city and region should be focused on creating accessible, high quality jobs for members of our community that have been left out of the state’s economic growth, not creating new opportunities for those already thriving. Beyond jobs, we want Amazon to support and fund affordable housing and equitable public transit, so that their presence doesn’t make ours impossible.”
As for housing prices, Griffin fears Amazon’s entry could lead to an increase in housing prices across the region.
“All this to lure a company that has contributed to an affordable housing crisis in its first hometown of Seattle?” she questioned.
Republican State Sen. Tim Neville from Littleton said the state needs to focus on fixing transportation issues and updating its infrastructure. Amazon is just side tracking state resources.
“Any company that is coming into Colorado, that’s always great news that we’re attracting people because we have a great business climate,” Neville said. “But my frustration is that the infrastructure that is going to be necessary to absorb the impact of 50,000 jobs, we haven’t been paying for that and the governor has not led successfully to make that happen. We need to make sure I-70 and other arteries are fixed. The devil is in the details but 50,000 more people and we haven’t taken care of business yet?”
If Denver is picked — and Amazon will decide its HQ2 in 2018 — adding 50,000 new workers to the region won’t happen overnight. The Seattle firm, which could make its decision in early 2018, said that hiring that many people could take 10 to 15 years.
In a 2015 report, the Reason Foundation concluded that Denver traffic congestion was already bad and getting worse. It said a rush-hour trip took 27 percent longer than it did in off hours and by 2035, the same trip would take 86 percent longer or “far worse than what Los Angeles experiences,” said author Baruch Feigenbaum, Reason’s Assistant Director of Transportation Policy.
“Denver for its size already has really bad traffic and this will make it worse,” said Feigenbaum. “There’s going to be a big increase in jobs (with Amazon), which is good for the economy. But there will be a substantial increase in traffic. Even if a significant group uses RTD, transit use is 5 percent, and maybe a half percent bikes and another percent walks, the burden is still on the roadway system.”
Feigenbaum said he recommended the region invest in dynamically priced express lane capacity, creating an express bus network and a rapid transit that runs on major urban roads to offset highway congestion.
“But if Denver gets Amazon, they will need to speed up those plans,” he said.
The state said it won’t seek additional taxpayer funding, but will offer performance-based job growth tax credits often offered to relocating firms. That could exceed $100 million, said Sam Bailey, who led the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. team working on Colorado’s official proposal. Instead of offering cash, the state is promoting talent, lifestyle and resources.
That’s a relief to William Perry Pendley, president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, a government watchdog group that monitors how taxpayer money is spent. Colorado’s incentives don’t come close to what some other regions are publicly offering, like New Jersey’s $7 billion in state and local incentives.
“It’s a headline acquisition. Everybody knows Amazon. It’s a huge get. There are areas desperate for it and I can see why places like Newark are going out of their way,” Pendley said. “But you just hope it makes long-term sense for the taxpayers because in a lot of situations (of public incentives), they do not pan out.”