Arlington County Approves Incentives for Amazon

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On March 16, the Arlington County Board voted unanimously to approve a $23 million incentives package for Amazon to establish its second corporate headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. This vote followed Virginia’s approval of an incentives package worth up to $750 million for Amazon, passed by the Virginia General Assembly in January and signed by Governor Northam in February.

The approval of local and state incentives for Amazon in Virginia contrasts with Amazon’s announcement in February that it would cancel plans to establish a headquarters in Long Island City, Queens, New York, in response to opposition from lawmakers and community members. The company announced in November 2018 that Amazon had decided to split its second headquarters between Long Island City, Queens, and Crystal City, Virginia, concluding a highly publicized search that began in September 2017, with 238 candidate cities and states bidding to become the site for HQ2. The company had said it would divide operations evenly between the two chosen sites, with more than 25,000 employees in each city.

The incentives package from Arlington County promises Amazon cash grants estimated at $23 million if it occupies 6.05 million square feet of office space in Arlington County through 2035 based on the incremental growth of an existing tax on hotel rooms. Arlington will further dedicate an estimated $28 million for improvements around the Amazon buildings based on 12% of future property tax revenues. Amazon will have an opportunity to express its opinion on how the county uses this money.

The vote to approve the county incentives was held at the end of a public hearing that, according to the Washington Post, was repeatedly interrupted by protestors who shouted “shame” and whose shouting prompted board members and Amazon officials to leave the room. Prior to the hearing, protestors opposed to the incentives rallied outside of the county building. Opponents of the deal with Amazon who spoke at the hearing raised concerns about increased rents, traffic congestion, school overcrowding, and Amazon’s refusal to sign a project labor agreement with protections for workers hired to construct the new Amazon buildings.