Those City Pitches to Amazon? Even City Officials Are Clueless

Pitches often came from public-private groups whose incentive proposals remain a secret
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 6, 2018 7:44 AM CDT
Pedestrians walk outside a building at Amazon.com's corporate headquarters in Seattle, Wash.   (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

(Newser) – Amazon has narrowed the list of cities vying for its second headquarters to 20, and the New York Times reports on an interesting part of the competition: The cities' top-secret bids are often top-secret even to officials of those very cities. In Indianapolis, for example, a city council member says he has been told "absolutely nothing" about the financial incentives offered to Amazon in the "HQ2" hunt. One big reason is that the bids were often put together by public-private development groups affiliated with the local chamber of commerce, and those groups aren't required to make them public under freedom-of-information laws. However, that raises the prospect that taxpayers of the eventual winning city might end up paying a steeper-than-expected price in exchange for the jobs and economic jolt promised by Amazon.

Not all the cities are being completely secretive. Newark, New Jersey, for example has outlined a $7 billion package of tax credits and other incentives to lure the behemoth. But others don't want to tip their hands, and Amazon apparently likes it that way. “I don’t know what we offered Amazon in terms of financial incentives, but I believe Amazon wants to see the biggest incentive package that any city will offer them,” says an Austin City Council member. No word on when the winner will be announced, but another winnowing of the finalists is expected soon. At Fast Company, one writer thinks it would be better for everyone if Amazon opened several smaller headquarters, while another at Forbes wonders if a public job posting suggests that DC has an edge. Check out the 20 finalists here.

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