Did Amazon Miss Key Societal Commitments with its New York City HQ2 Proposal?

When 25,000 jobs isn’t enough…

The frenzy that Amazon initiated by inviting communities around America to reply to an RFP to become a host community for HQ2 is now embarassimgly playing itself out in the New York tabloids.

The trade seemed like a simple business proposition. 25,000 jobs averaging $150,000 per year. Access to a world-class workforce. Some loose commitments to allow unionization in exchange for $1.525 billion in state and municipal economic incentives to help defray the costs of doing business in the northeastern United States and in New York.

Long Island City, Queens

Ok, but what about Queens? What was Amazon going to do for the borough it said it wanted to call home? How would regular New Yorkers get to work then on an even more crowded subway? Where would they be able to afford to live? What would life look like? What would Amazon do to help? What civic contributions would be made? What would Queens look like when Amazon leaves one day?

The details of a business deal constructed in private contained public benefits that had to be made public and had to be approved by people elected to protect the interests of their constituents.

Could a Commitment to the Philosophy of Civic Humanism Have Helped?

The stories from cities that are home to massive new economy job producers is being poorly received around the country. A model where fabulously successful companies drive up the cost of living and annihilate the housing market and any sense of normalcy in transportation is outdated.

Companies that need to impact communities in such a wide ranging way to continue their prosperity need to participate in solutions to allow cities to successfully manage their needs and help sustain the needs of everyone else. It’s a missing piece in the expansion plans of Amazon and we’ll see more of this backlash now that there’s empirical evidence of what surrounding economies and infrastructure look like in cities that have called these companies home.

Just last month Microsoft pledged $500 million towards affordable housing in Seattle, an acknowledgment of a crises that company’s extreme prosperity has exacerbated.

But imagine if Amazon had a 20-year track record of leading public improvements in housing and transportation?