Joe Parilla is a fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at The Brookings Institution. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. Jeff Bezos was so obsessed with Amazon’s growth in the mid-1990s that he had the firm’s motto, “Get Big Fast” imprinted on t-shirts for all his employees. Two decades later, Amazon is outgrowing its current home of Seattle so rapidly that it has spent the past year running a competition to select a new US city in which to build its 50,000-person “HQ2.” The search finally ended Tuesday with Amazon splitting the headquarters between two East Coast megaregions — the Northern Virginia suburbs outside of Washington, D.C., and Long Island City in New York City’s borough of Queens. The leaders of these cities should internalize warnings from Seattle. Commentators there have taken to calling Amazon’s expansion a “prosperity bomb,” reflecting both the massive impact of the company’s growth and the heat of the ensuing fights about how that growth should be managed and distributed across the city. In one scenario, Amazon could simply drop another prosperity bomb on these two already-prosperous markets, producing a regressive explosion that heightens inequality, spurs gentrification and diminishes social cohesion. In another scenario, Amazon HQ2 and HQ3 could serve more as a controlled power source — one that economically energizes a broad base of residents and local communities. How could a “grand bargain” like this unfold as Amazon and local leaders in New York and Virginia bear down on the final stretch?… [Read full story]
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