Mr. Bezos, We Apologize

The Inky and DN don’t speak for our city, let’s talk

(Photo Left) Can the city broker a winning deal with the retail giant that keeps everyone happy?

What is it with the “Debbie Downers” at the self-proclaimed papers of record on 6th and Market? Earlier this month, on the same day, the opinion pages of both the Inquirer and Daily News felt the need to warn the rest of us about Amazon.

Specifically, sounding the alarm about giving away the store to Amazon —more specifically, Mr. Bezos — in the form of tax breaks and other economic incentives to woo the retail and tech giant to our town.

The set up for these admonishments was Amazon’s release of a Request For Proposal (RFP) asking cities to essentially make them an offer they can’t refuse. In exchange, Amazon will bring the moon and the stars in the form of its second North American headquarters, or as reported by Tech Crunch: “At full-capacity, the site would be expected to be of similar, or even bigger, size to the Seattle operation, which today is a major cornerstone of Seattle’s business life, employing 40,000 people, covering 8.1 million square feet with 33 buildings including 24 restaurants. HQ2, as Amazon is calling the new headquarters, is expected to employ 50,000 and will get $5 billion in investment, the company said.

‘We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,’ said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, in a statement. ‘Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We’re excited to find a second home.’”

So, to match Mr. Bezos’ enthusiasm, comes the Inky and DN to throw cold water on the relationship, before we even asked Bezos out for a date.

The Inky: “[T]here is little in the way of monitoring whether an investment actually produced the number of jobs that was promised. And there are even-worse-case scenarios, when such incentives become a rat hole of disappearing dollars…

Recently some lawmakers have called for more accountability. In 2016, Council member Helen Gym sponsored a bill requiring that companies getting financial aid file an annual report detailing any subsidies received and detailed statistics on resulting jobs.”

Yeah, that’s the ticket Inky, ask Bezos to fill out a bunch of paperwork and demand that he guarantee his numbers.

Then there’s Will Bunch, whose piece was subtitled “To get Amazon HQ could mean cheating Philly schoolkids.” In Bunch world, the fact that “Center City’s comeback hasn’t turned around the still-struggling finances of the Philadelphia School District” equals Jeff Bezos “screw[ing] over the city’s long suffering schoolkids and working-class taxpayers” to meet the “extortionate demands that Amazon and its $82 Billion Man” will make.

Hey guys, lets lose the ad hominem attacks on Bezos for being too wealthy or trying to extort money from school kids routine. Bezos made his money by harnessing the power of technology into a transformative retail experience.

What makes the attack on Bezos by our own newspapers so misguided is the compelling case for Bezos to put HQ2 here. Here’s how Forbes contributor Adam Ozimek puts it: “Across the river from Center City is the University City neighborhood where Drexel, the University of Pennsylvania, multiple medical institutions, and Amtrak’s 30th street station are located. In 2016, there were 29 new development [projects] completed in this neighborhood, totaling 6 million square feet of office, research, academic, and medical space according to the University City District. Job growth in this neighborhood is huge, and also focused in STEM, with [an estimated] 80% growth in middle to high wage jobs from 2008 to 2013.”

Mr. Ozimek continues: “It’s centrally located between New York and DC, in a state with a growing number of fulfillment centers, and is a low cost, booming, major metro with an airport, good public transportation and leading universities. It’s a city on the upswing with great assets but lots of room to improve, and Amazon can save money by getting in on closer to the ground floor … but not as dangerously close to the ground floor as with some other post-industrial cities that are just beginning to turn around.”

Mr. Bezos recognizes that HQ2 can do for a major urban community what Amazon has done for the online retail experience – transform it for the better. The fact that our Ed. Boards equate this opportunity to the Commonwealth’s support of the Aker shipyard 20 years ago, or Keystone Opportunity Zone tax abatements being abused for Comcast, shows their lack of imagination, not his. The fact that Inky and DN cannot begin to grasp the game changing nature of this opportunity is not Mr. Bezos’ fault, it’s theirs.




Mr. Bezos, We Apologize

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Liberty City Press is an independent weekly newspaper distributed by the Philadelphia Multi-Cultural Media Network whose members include Philadelphia Sunday Sun, The Philadelphia Gay News, Al Dia, The Metro Chinese Weekly and The Metro Viet News.

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