It seems that Seattle is no longer evergreen for Amazon. Last week, the company announced that it’s on the hunt for a second headquarters. There wasn’t a clear explanation for why the online retail giant is seeking a new habitat. But even climate change deniers would conclude that nature – economic nature, that is – is just taking its course.
This past summer, the Seattle City Council unanimously approved an income tax on wealthy residents. While the tax likely will be struck down by the courts – the City Council had already caused the conditions for the so-called wealthy to become one of the Northwest’s endangered species.
The Seattle Times wrote, “Amazon plans to hire new executives and teams in the second headquarters, and to give senior leaders the option of locating their existing groups in one or both campuses. Employees currently working in Seattle, Amazon said, may have an opportunity to choose to work from the new headquarters.”
Sounds more like mass migration to me.
In announcing the move, Amazon signaled that it is accepting “incentive packages” from states and municipalities. Mayors, of course, are mobilizing for the Big Game.
In California alone, Sacramento, Los Angeles, San Jose, Irvine, and Concord are reportedly considering bids. Lloyd Greif, head of the Los Angeles investment bank Greif & Co. and a former chair of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. told the Los Angeles Times, “In terms of the importance to the city, I think the Olympics would pale against this.” But given California’s environmental damage: high tax rates, overregulation, unaffordable housing, poor performing schools, and deteriorating transportation systems – just to name a few problems – California is a long shot.
Chief Executive magazine’s annual Best and Worst States for Business survey of CEOs has ranked California dead last in the 12 years the survey has been conducted. In a summary, the Orange County Register reports: California ranked last in taxation and regulation, 35th in workforce quality, and 26th in living environment – which includes cost of living and education, and state and local attitudes toward business.
When it comes to the law of the jungle, California is looking more like a blue-footed booby than a jaguar, but as a Californian and Amazon stockholder (full disclosure), I still can’t help but root for both.
Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute.