5 burning questions on HQ2
5 BURNING QUESTIONS ON HQ2 — Amazon officially ended one of the tech sector’s long-running mysteries Tuesday by unveiling Crystal City in Virginia and the Queens borough of New York as the locations for its next headquarters. But questions remain about how the HQs will affect the two regions, how the company’s larger presence in Washington will factor in politically, and more. Here are five things to watch for as HQ2 moves closer to fruition.
— Will the HQ2 resistance notch any wins? Some New York Democrats are not happy that local officials were shut out of negotiations with Amazon. “This fight against #AmazonHQ2 is just beginning,” tweeted New York City Council member Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents Queens. And New York state senators have already announced plans to introduce legislation that would redirect funds pledged toward New York’s Amazon agreement to instead cancel out student debt. Expect local leaders to continue to put up a fight as Amazon seeks to put its HQ2 plans into action.
— Will a greater presence translate to more sway in Washington?Amazon has long been ramping up its lobbying efforts in the nation’s capital. As Lorraine Woellert and Steve Overly report, “The company spent $12.8 million to influence federal policy last year, a record it's on pace to smash again this year. That's an increase of more than 400 percent since 2012, when the company spent a modest $2.5 million on lobbying.” But by expanding its physical presence in the region, Amazon may be signaling its influence has not yet reached its peak.
— Will more losing bids see the light of day? Local officials and courts continue to grapple with questions of whether to release bids from cities and regions that lost out on the HQ2 sweepstakes. Some leaders, like those in Charlotte, N.C., just announced plans to disclose their offers — while others, like in Indianapolis, intend to keep their proposals under wraps. The selection process has drawn scrutiny from local officials, but it appears many HQ2 packages remain a secret for now.
— Will secrecy be an ongoing issue? Observers pointed out that Virginia’s agreement includes language requiring it to provide Amazon with written notice of any Freedom of Information Act requests "to allow the Company to seek a protective order or other appropriate remedy." The revelation alarmed free speech advocates. “Such agreements deserve intense scrutiny and potential action, up to and including lawsuits, if either the private venture or government entity use the FOIA restrictions to keep information secret,” Radio Television Digital News Association executive director Dan Shelley told MT.
— And the biggest one of all: Will the new sites be a net gain for the regions? Critics have long sounded off on the possibility that the new headquarters will raise housing costs, displace workers and strain infrastructure in the selected regions. But Amazon representatives and state officials involved in negotiations argued Tuesday that the agreements will help spur investment in transportation, education, public amenities and more for the surrounding regions.