Metro Atlanta leaders react to Amazon choosing region for HQ2 shortlist

By Maggie Lee

Metro Atlanta’s civic, business and elected leadership were among those who on Thursday expressed some strong reactions after learning Thursday morning that Amazon had included the region in its short list of 20 regions where the company’s second headquarters would be located.

Amazon, potential sites

Five sites in metro Atlanta have been talked up as potential locations for Amazon’s second headquarters, should the company choose to build it in the region. Amazon included metro Atlanta in a short list of 20 cities it released Thursday. Credit: mapquest.com, David Pendered

  • Gov. Nathan Deal: “We are excited to learn that Atlanta has been included on Amazon’s short list. This has been a cooperative effort by the entire region, and we truly believe that Metro Atlanta has the talent, transit and logistics that provides the best location for Amazon’s second headquarters. We look forward to the next steps, and making sure our region remains at the top of the list.”
  • Stonecrest Mayor Jason Lary: “I’m very happy about that because that includes us. As a matter of fact, I received feedback from different areas of the economic development department in Georgia, and they were glad we were in it because we brought a tremendous amount of attention to Georgia because were included in the metro Atlanta bid and submitted our own direct bid and did the geofencing. I’m glad Stonecrest is part of this effort.”
  • Donnell Suggs, sports editor and columnist, Houston Home Journal, in Perry: “Amazon’s shortlist reminds me of road to 1996 Summer Olympic bid for Atlanta and that’s a good thing for the city. … The potential impact of an Amazon headquarters … in Atlanta can only be compared to what the Olympics did for metro and south Atlanta some 20-plus years ago. The billion dollar company, world famous name, subsequent branding and massive job possibilities are exactly what an international city the likes of Atlanta (and a first term mayor like Keisha Lance Bottoms) can use to further its claim to be the southern equivalent to New York City, Paris, London, etc.”
  • Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms held a press conference about several topics Thursday morning, including Amazon. She started her prepared remarks by thanking fellow elected leaders and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Below is a transcript of most of her prepared remarks plus two of the several questions she answered:

“This is truly a collaborative effort and I believe our success is a direct result of our teamwork and our willingness to focus on results. The city worked very closely with the state to develop a competitive bid that represents our strengths.

Atlanta is the economic center of the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the country and the eighth largest economy.

We have leading universities including the Atlanta University Center, now Emory University and also The Georgia Institute of Technology, which as we know is producing some of the nation’s and the world’s leading young scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs. Our workforce is highly educated and nimble and has an enormous amount of experience in working with established tech sector companies.

The Atlanta region is home to financial technology and cybersecurity companies. Our startup ecosystem is growing and thriving and continuing to support entrepreneurs throughout our economy.

I also want to thank the visionary leadership of so many of our past mayors who have made it possible for us to have one of the largest transit systems …  and that is MARTA. And we also know that we are at the beginning of an expansion of MARTA, a historic expansion of MARTA, thanks to the overwhelming support of the sales tax referendum, which will generate $2.6 billion dollars over the next forty years.

We are excited for the potential regional collaboration to expand our transit system and know that it will help us attract even more companies to the area.

And also we can’t stand here today and not to mention Hartsfield-Jackson international airport, the worlds busiest and most efficient passenger airport. Because of its connectivity, 80 percent of the nation’s GDP is within two hours of Atlanta. It offers direct flights to so many flights across the country, including the West Coast and also to international cities across Europe, Asia and Africa. We also know Atlanta is the hub of major interstate highways and railroad networks. And so many of these things that are transit-oriented really speak to the high quality of life that we’re able to have in the metro area at such a relatively low cost.

Also we can’t stand here and not mention our beautiful tree canopy in the city and also the culture that our city has to offer to so many people looking to move to the region.

So, I’m so very excited to move forward to the next phase of this process and I look forward to continuing to work with Gov. Deal, [State Department of Economic Development]Commissioner [Pat] Wilson and all of our stakeholders to make sure that Atlanta puts forward the strongest, most competitive bid possible.

(Question from a reporter:) What is your message to taxpayers who say there should be transparency in what the state is offering in terms of tax breaks or other incentives?

KLB: I think that those details will be forthcoming. I think that anytime that we’re looking to attract, whether it be a company, whether it be the Super Bowl, that there are things that we have to keep close to continue to make sure that we are competitive.

But the governor has made it very clear that anything that needs to be improved on on behalf of the state will be done in a special session and there will be ample opportunity for the public and lawmakers to weigh in on that.

(Question from reporter:) There are concerns about Amazon and affordability, potentially making the affordability problem worse. What’s your response to those concerns?

KLB: I think when you look at Amazon and you look about the number of small businesses that Amazon supports and you think about Amazon and you think about the layers of people who come to work for Amazon, its not just people who will be corporate executives, but you’ll have warehouses have you’ll have administrative staff so I think that there are layers of people who will have an opportunity to be a part of this amazing company

Our affordability issue in Atlanta is not an issue related to Amazon or any of our other Fortune 500 companies. It’s an issue that we are facing in the city and that many cities are facing across the country that we have to make sure that as our city grows and our city prospers that we remain a city that is a city for everyone regardless of your income.

That’s the reason I talked so much about affordability during the course of this this campaign

That’s the reason … on Tuesday that I asked that legislation be introduced to create a commission to look at affordability and it’s top of mind. And the interesting thing about this affordability conversation: it’s not just a conversation that people are interested in who are seeking to live in the city of Atlanta, but our companies are worried about it.

We have businesses at the airport who are concerned about affordability because they have to have people who live in the city who have the ability to get to and from work.

And so it’s top of mind for so many people and I think its something that in the Atlanta Way we can truly be a model. But that’s an issue that we are grappling w as a city and I think that any time you talk about bringing jobs to a city, I think it will go a long way to help address many of the issues we’re experiencing.

Her entire press conference, including more Q and A on Amazon is available on Twitter

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

9 replies
  1. Chris Johnston says:

    This competition will proceed this way:
    1. The finalists will respond with revised proposals including increased bribes – oops, inducements.
    2. The finalists will be reduced to a shortlist of three, in one or two other rounds. The finalists making it through each round will be expected to increase their inducements.
    3. The three finalists on the shortlist will revise their proposals and increase their inducements.
    4. Then the horse trading begins.Report

    Reply
  2. Steve Hagen says:

    If Amazon selects Atlanta, make certain they don’t scrape away our forests and that the negative impacts of where they locate are delt with thru proper planning and funding. Don’t let surrounding neighborhoods suffer with overloaded schools and traffic.Report

    Reply
    • Chris Johnston says:

      For 50,000 employees in one spot the site could be 100 acres with a number of 10 story buildings. That would fit all of the sites except Perimeter. Stonecrest is out if reason because of little existing infrastructure. As far as mitigating negative impacts to trees and neighborhoods, dream on.Report

      Reply
    • My take says:

      If they choose Atlanta, I am sure the development will occur downtown in The Gulch. Also, Amazon is a very green company and I don’t see them clear cutting forests for a new headquarters.Report

      Reply
  3. TJ says:

    Call me crazy, but a campus on the proposed Westside Reservoir Park makes the most logical sense. Imagine a beautiful corporate campus, adjacent to the largest park in the city of Atlanta, all with the city skyline at its doorstep. There are acres and acres of greenfield ready to be built on. There’s already an existing MARTA line with expansion infrastructure already in place. The site is 10-15 min from Midtown, downtown, Buckhead, Ga Tech, and 20 min from the airport.

    In addition, in the original RFP, Amazon stated that they wanted to dynamically change the face of a community. What better area to shoot a bolt of life into than NW Atlanta, a historical depleted and underserved community for decades. It would literally be a Cinderella story for the the Westside, if that site made the final cut. However, if Atlanta is selected, the entire state and metro eats, not just the city of Atlanta.Report

    Reply
    • Chris Johnston says:

      I agree your idea is crazy as it would create an Atlanta version of Fort Apache, the Bronx.
      How will the adjacent property owners react to a gentrified area that dramatically increases their taxes? Not well, based on what we have recently seen.
      The MARTA line is a dead end stub, not the main West Line.Report

      Reply
      • Tj says:

        If the homeowners property taxes increase…that means that the home value has increased as well. A home that was once valued at $50K could potentially now be valued at $300K, in the span of only a few years. What homeowner is against their property value doubling, if not tripling? There are also programs already established to protect the elderly when it comes to property tax increases. Why is growth and a return on an investment now a bad thing? Much of this fear of growth is all fueled by the scare tactic word “gentrification”. If you’re a home owner, and Amazon comes, you’re most likely in a good situation.

        Yes, the green line is currently a dead end line. However, can that line not be extended deeper into the park as well as into West Midtown if necessary? There’s nothing but open property behind it, and I believe COA owns a large portion of it. If Amazon were to choose the Westside Reservoir Park site, a decent extension of that Marta line could be complete within 24 months, if not sooner.Report

        Reply
        • Chris Johnston says:

          You seem to be unaware of poorer residents fighting gentrification. If one has difficulty paying high City property taxes on a $50,000 home, one cannot pay on the same home appraised at three time the value.Report

          Reply
          • TJ says:

            Again, I wish that people, including you, would stop throwing around the term “gentrification” as a typical scare word, used to misinform the uneducated and unknowing. Gentrification is simply a higher income tax base, moving into a below market rate area, and decisinf to move there. Renters specifically, are generally the largest victims of gentrification and rising property taxes.

            I currently reside in a “poor area” as you called it, and most residents want better options in the area ex: grocery stores, better schools, banks, shops, etc. However, that expectation of having those services goes against how the US economy is structured. It’s all,based on taxation and the income of r sidents. You can’t force private businesses to open up shop in areas where the income of residents don’t support it.

            The ones that are most guilty of contributing to “gentrification “ are the former residents that grew up on those areas, that did not move back after they graduated college, got that promotion, etc.

            Lastly, no one has a RIGHT to live anywhere. If you own property, but can not afford the taxes, but refuse to sell, then who’s fault is that? Simply because an area has seen an increase of value, doesn’t mean that the market must remain stagnant because a small portion of people want to keep it at the same status quo. They want to reap the benefits, without paying their fair share. However, and as I previously mentioned, there are existing programs that already protect the elderly, and that’s what the focus should be. I’m not concerned about able body residents, young enough to work and figure it out. If you can’t afford it, sell the property, take the earnings, and move to a place where the taxes aren’t an issue. We can’t focus efforts on renters.Report

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