Now that Amazon has provided a list of finalist cities, the local government entities will do what they can to further entice the retail giant to build a complex to supposedly boost a local economy. Regardless of where the headquarters is or how it affects the city, many believe that large companies are the answer to the question of how to offset the traumas of the recession. Because most of the cities have not properly engaged with all of their constituents, bidding wars for large entities are often less about holistic economies and more about widening the gaps of inequity.
Ironically, these companies will do whatever they chose to do, whether it means locating outside the actual city limits or demanding a renewal of incentives when the original contract expires. For example, most large companies are not located within the city, and San Francisco is a case in point. Tech entities flourish in the suburbs while receiving such excessive incentives that they have manipulated the entire culture of the city without increasing the quality of life. Additionally, more startups look to that area, coming with their hands out not only for investment, but small business incentives, meaning that less profitable businesses struggle to stay afloat in an ever-shrinking venture pool.
Disadvantaged communities begin to disappear when such deals are struck. Marginalized populations are forced to find new margins based on the cities’ needs to increase property taxes to fulfill the government’s portion of the bargain. Poorer constituents are frustrated as the corporate courtships continue even when cities already have evidence that such “partnerships” alienate the working classes. In fact, the more segregated cities in the United States have multiple projects that were based on attracting a large entity for perceived benefit, with very little followup and even less community engagement.
In the specific case of Amazon, there are two cities contending for the company’s hand in tax incentives. One is Dallas, which has actually expanded its public transportation and combines political perspectives to form a more functional city. Even though the city has a relatively high cost of living, it conversely offers a history of diversity with both race and socioeconomics. Austin, on the other hand, has earned a reputation as one of the most racially and socioeconomically segregated cities in the country, with an ever-shrinking Black population. Traffic has been grown exponentially as the city and its transit partners struggled to plan ahead while fervently working to attract big-name brands such as AMD, Apple and Google.
Activist groups are banding together more frequently to oppose such hasty incentive packages, especially since so many of the same cities have infrastructure problems. More citizens are working to attend public meetings and hold the decision-makers accountable for the overall effects of their decisions. Hopefully, there will come a day when companies make true choices instead of demanding to “date” local officials.