• Why didn't Amazon pick the Seattle area for its second headquarters?

    By: Ashli Blow, KIRO 7 Digital Producer

    Updated:

    It's hard to walk through Seattle's bustling South Lake Union neighborhood without spotting a crane, catching your reflection in the glimmer of a new building, or seeing someone wearing a blue Amazon badge.

    Amazon's development in SLU now takes up 8.1 million square feet, has 33 buildings and 24 restaurants and is home to more than 40,000 employees.

    With the promise of HQ2 being a full equal to the Seattle campus, soon one of twenty cities will experience something similar — now that the e-commerce company has released its short list for its $5 billion second headquarters.

    >> See which cities made the list here.

    While Amazon has called Seattle home for 22 years, it's not on the list for HQ2. There's not an explanation from the company or from city leaders as to why the Seattle area wasn't selected. But here's what to know about Seattle's bid and how local politicians reacted during the bidding process

    FILE - In this April 27, 2017 file photo, construction continues on three large, glass-covered domes as part of an expansion of the Amazon.com campus in downtown Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

    Seattle did submit a bid, but dozens of other cities did it first

    In all, 238 cities applied for the new headquarters.

    Amazon did not release the exact reasons for why snubbed cities didn't make the list, but the company did say that cities that made the short list took opportunities to tout what their communities had to offer.

    Seattle's bid for a second headquarters was a bit late in the game to show enthusiasm.

    Scroll down to continue reading.


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    Other cities launched campaigns the day Amazon announced its hunt for a second home last fall. High-ranking Seattle city leaders waited nearly a week to show enthusiasm for it, and 100 other cities had already expressed interest by that time.

    Usually, the announcement of HQ2 would have dominated the city's political discourse that week, but it came just a few days before former Mayor Ed Murray resigned amid sexual abuse allegations.

    FILE - In this Nov. 9, 2016, file photo, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, second left, speaks at a post-election event of elected officials and community leaders at City Hall in Seattle.

    While Murray did release a statement before stepping down about the city beginning conversations with Amazon, it's unclear if any action was taken to start formulating a proposal.

    Nearly a week after Amazon's HQ2 announcement, Seattle City Council President Bruce Harrell, who served to fill the mayor's office vacancy, signed an executive order directing the Seattle Office of Economic Development to take sharp action with a proposal to the company.

    In a news conference, at which Harrell also announced he would not carry on as mayor and would return to his council position, he said that the city needed to focus on business retention strategies, which included convincing Amazon to build a second headquarters in the city.

    (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

    “Quite candidly, if there are about to 50,000 jobs, from warehouse workers to software developers, it should be for our residents,” he said. “We need to do everything we can possibly do to have the economic health and growth.”

    The city delivered its pitch for Amazon as part of a joint plan with King and Snohomish counties in late October.

    >> Read details about the pitch here

    It proposed that the campus expand in-state, by keeping its headquarters in Seattle and then opening a site in nearby cities such as Bellevue, Renton or Lynnwood.

    Watch video about the pitch below or scroll down to keep reading.

    Head tax proposal was underway

    Also, during the bid process, some residents, and even leaders, expressed their belief that Amazon has contributed to some of Seattle's biggest problems, such as affordability and homelessness.

    Socialist Seattle City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant – known for speaking at protests, including ones specifically against Amazon, and for leading progressive movements in the city – called out the company. She said it has gobbled swathes of prime real estate and those actions coincide with an affordable housing crisis.

    File photo

    >> Related: Read about Amazon's mixed-use space sheltering families

    “Amazon's quest for a second massive corporate base is reminiscent of Boeing's ongoing efforts to ship jobs out of the Seattle area and hold us hostage," Sawant wrote. "For decades, Boeing executives and billionaire shareholders have carried out systematic economic extortion by pitting cities and states against one another, forcing a race to the bottom for the living standards of workers, and crushing labor unions."

    The councilwoman also said that if Amazon could afford to build a second headquarters, in the city or elsewhere, it could afford to pay more to cities in its home state. Along with council members Mike O'Brien and Lisa Herbold, she sponsored a head tax of $100 per full-time employee per year on businesses making more than $5 million in revenue. For the wealthiest 10 percent, the tax would be $200 per employee.

    The tax would have funded homeless programs, but it drew strong ire from local business communities. On the day of the vote in November, the proposal was tweaked to $125 a year per employee for only businesses making more than $10 million in revenues. It was rejected, though a resolution was established shortly after to restart a similar proposal.

    Watch video about the rejected proposal below or scroll down to keep reading.

    Former Councilman Tim Burgess, however, told The Seattle Times that he didn't believe the city's progressive policies, including its minimum wage hike and new income tax on high earners, was driving Amazon away.

    The state effort to keep Amazon at home

    Gov. Jay Inslee admitted to being surprised that Amazon was looking for another headquarters.
    “We had not had any sort of prewarning about it,” Inslee said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “It did catch us a little off guard, I think, with the rest of the world.”

    With other Washington cities, including Tacoma, submitting their own bids, the governor talked to the company about what it wanted from another headquarters. At the second headquarters, Amazon said, it would hire up to 50,000 new full-time employees over the next 15 years.

    Jay Inslee file photo (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, Pool)

    "As the company continues to grow -- including potential expansion of another 2 million square feet of office space in Seattle -- we will have further discussions with them about possibilities in Washington state," he said after the HQ2 announcement.

    >> Related: Arkansas flies banner over Seattle: "It's not you, it's us."

    Washington state didn’t submit to Amazon directly, but the Department of Commerce compiled a list of tax credits and programs that could be used to lure Amazon, according the Puget Sound Business Journal.

    Despite the fact that Amazon's HQ2 will not be located in Washington, the rapidly growing company plans to remain in its sprawling Seattle headquarters, according to founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. The company is set to decide on the site of the second headquarters  in 2018.


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