Amazon Headquarters: How Boston Dodged a Bullet

By, Annie A. ’21

On November 13, Amazon announced it would open two new headquarters in addition to its current headquarters in Seattle—one in Arlington, Virginia and one in New York City—ending their yearlong search. Along with 238 other cities and areas, Boston sent in a proposal to have HQ2 (Amazon’s term for their second headquarters) located right here in our community.

I think that having HQ2 located in Boston would have been overall detrimental, at least for the first 10 years. Especially because Amazon was seeking out cities and regions which could give them the most tax cuts, tax revenue from Amazon on the state and city level would be near nothing. New jobs are great, but the burden a swarm of new inhabitants would put upon our city would be too much: rent prices in and around Boston would rise, the MBTA would be overflowing with commuters, and traffic would reach new levels. Additionally, the public education system would suffer as a result of a new crop of students which could not be properly offset by taxing Amazon due to the aforementioned tax cuts. A boosted economy is obviously a good thing, but at what cost?

Amazon narrowed down their options to 20 cities including New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, Washington, D.C., and Boston. Amazon wanted to make sure that their new headquarters would be located in a “metropolitan area with more than one million people [and] a stable and business-friendly environment” so that it would have “the potential to attract and retain strong technical talent” (Amazon HQ2 Request for Proposal Form).

Boston officials, business owners, and university presidents alike saw HQ2 as an opportunity to improve our city. In the 218-page proposal, dozens of leaders of businesses and universities, from Emerson to Suffolk to Harvard, wrote letters of support for Boston to be the next Amazon HQ2. The president of MIT wrote, “the greater Boston region is an ideal location for Amazon to create its second corporate headquarters, with tremendous opportunities for technological advancement. MIT has a long-standing tradition of working productively with industry, and we look forward to strengthening our existing relationships with Amazon.” Governor Charlie Baker touted Boston as the “world leader in life sciences and rank at the forefront of digital industry, software, robotics, cyber security, and green technology.”

Ms. H., who teaches Economics, said that with the promise of 50,000 high-paying jobs, there would be a “multiplier effect, where you give this family $100,000 and you do that to 50,000 people in the area, it doesn’t just stop at their household. They spend a portion of that, and the next person spends a portion of that and so on and so forth, causing a ripple effect which could potentially be really amazing for the economy.”

The possibility of housing HQ2 was exciting for some but dreadful for others. Most people at Winsor are relatively nonchalant about the announcement of HQ2, likely because it won’t affect us here in Boston. Some, like Maya B. ’21, however, are “happy, because we have bad enough traffic as it is.” Tat F.-M. ’19 noted that the two new locations for HQ2 will have “a lot of traffic in an area where there’s already a lot of traffic … I’m not sad it’s not in Boston– I’m happy it’s not here.” Others point out moral concerns: Amazon has long put local companies out of business and that Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, whose net worth is over 100 billion dollars, does not regularly make significant donations to charity. Anne J. ’21 said she “doesn’t want to be associated with Amazon [because Bezos] is a bad person.” Tat added that Jeff Bezos “has a lot more money than any one person needs but doesn’t  donate to charity.”

Additionally, Ms. H. commented on the negative impacts of HQ2: “housing costs would increase substantially, and they’re already some of the worst in the country in terms of housing prices. There’s a big impact that can have in terms of equality: people that can’t afford housing then get pushed farther out and are less likely to get to their jobs… Some places were willing to offer pretty extreme levels of tax cuts for Amazon to incentivize them to come to those places. If a company is given the tax cuts, but they also burden our public systems, like infrastructure in terms of transportation and our education system, but aren’t having to pay those levels of taxes, then that burden of taxes goes to the income of the rest of the people.” Ultimately, Boston missed out on an economy-booster, but it certainly dodged a bullet in terms of hassle in day-to-day life, burden on the MBTA, and Boston Public School system.