Amazon on Tuesday announced Long Island City for half its new HQ2, a move that by 2028 will bring 25,000 new jobs to the Queens neighborhood directly across from Manhattan.
The other half of HQ2 — Amazon’s second corporate headquarters — will go to Arlington, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C.
While Amazon’s Queens operation will be located just 147 miles south of Albany, it’s not clear whether that proximity will benefit the Capital Region.
“My crystal ball is pretty hazy on that one,” said Wallace Altes, the retired head of what’s now called the Capital Region Chamber. Altes is credited with coining the term Tech Valley to describe this area’s growing technology sector.
One concern, he said, was the growing dominance of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas as locations for big technology companies.
“The question: Are we close enough to benefit, or are we so far away that we’ll be hurt by it,” said Altes. “It’s part of that big national picture of big cities doing well and smaller metros not so well.”
Mark Eagan, current president and CEO of the Capital Region Chamber, said that, thanks to its New York state location, the state will at least benefit from the tax revenues that Amazon is expected to pay.
“Ultimately, that tax revenue helps the overall state budget,” he said. But, “I wouldn’t envision there would be multiple ripple effects” on the Capital Region.
Pete Bardunias, president and CEO of The Chamber of Southern Saratoga County, also saw minimal impact locally. “I think it’ll be a wash,” he said.
But Andrew Kennedy, president and CEO of the Albany-based Center for Economic Growth, saw Amazon’s decision enhancing the appeal of the Capital Region to other tech companies.
“Amazon’s decision bolsters our ability to market Tech Valley and New York in general as the destination for companies investing and creating jobs” Kennedy said. “It builds on the reputation the Capital Region cemented when GlobalFoundries went forward with a chip fab in Malta: that the Empire State has the talent and assets the business community needs as well the experience, motivation and resources to ensure success for all parties.”
While Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday touted the nine-to-one payback on the state’s and New York City’s $3 billion investment in the Amazon project, other officials were criticizing the size of the incentives to a company with a market value of nearly $800 billion.
The state is offering $1.2 billion in assistance from its Excelsior Jobs Program and a $505 million capital grant, while New York City is offering nearly $1.3 billion in assistance.
“This is the largest economic development initiative that has ever been done by the city, or by the state, or by the city and state together,” said Cuomo.
“Amazon is a billion-dollar company,” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected Congress member representing Bronx and Queens. “The idea that it will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks at a time when our subway is crumbling and our communities need MORE investment, not less, is extremely concerning to residents here.”
The National Federation of Independent Business also criticized the deal.
“New York’s small, independent businesses employ more than half of the State’s private sector workforce, pay some of the highest property and income taxes in the nation, and are in desperate need of real relief from a stifling regulatory climate,” said Greg Biryla, state director of NFIB in New York. “Rather than cut a $1.7 billion check to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world, New York State’s economy, taxpayers and communities would be far better served by seeing business, property and income tax reductions implemented across the board.”