Their adventures with your money
Here we go again. This time it’s Amazon HQ2, dangling 50,000 jobs and a supposed $5 billion in spending on construction and operations in front of the city who will give them what they want.
Predictably, Gov. Sandoval and his economic development minions are scurrying around, frantically designing a desirable incentive package to lure this “once in a lifetime” opportunity to Nevada. We’ll be competing with other locales desperate for jobs and private sector growth by responding to a request for proposal (RFP) issued by Amazon to determine who will offer them the most upfront cash and goods.
So what does Amazon want for the privilege of becoming their HQ2 hometown? In their RFP, they talk about sustainability, connectivity and a cultural community fit. They also are looking for a quality workforce, access to an international airport and a major highway corridor, and “a community where our employees will enjoy living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, and an overall high quality of life.” But mostly they care about the money.
Amazon’s “high-priority considerations” revolve around incentives to “offset initial capital outlay and ongoing operational costs.” Competitors must provide a highly detailed description of each type of incentive they are prepared to offer, how long it will last and the amount. The company emphasizes that incentives such as land, tax credits/exemptions, relocation grants, workforce grants, utility incentives/grants, permitting, and fee reductions are all welcome, stating “the initial cost and ongoing cost of doing business are critical decision drivers.”
Amazon is not the least bit subtle in suggesting communities pursue special incentive legislation to compete for their business, but it’s clear they’re not going to be patient about waiting for local or state political bodies to act. They indicate they may select more than one proposal and pursue further negotiations, or perhaps they won’t pick any proposal at all, if their demands aren’t adequately met. It seems they’ve learned a lot from Tesla’s billion dollar shakedown of Nevada’s legislators a few years ago.
Amid paragraph after paragraph of potential incentives, Amazon also asks communities to comment on their recreational opportunities, crime rates and affordable housing. They want to know about education attainment, existing wage rates and traffic congestion.
One would think Northern Nevada would automatically be eliminated based on the lack of affordable housing alone as the Tesla effect continues to exacerbate the extreme housing shortage for those making 80 percent or less of the area median income. The chronic choking traffic and overcrowded low-performing schools in Las Vegas would seem to rule out the southern end of the state as well. The negative effects of granting millions and billions of tax incentives to Tesla, Apple, Switch and other corporations are all too obvious as Nevada’s local and state governments continue to struggle to provide basic services.
Wouldn’t it be refreshing if Nevada refused to participate in bidding wars with other communities that don’t have our low taxes, high quality of life, and rich natural resources to meet the demands of corporations looking to enrich themselves further at the expense of everyone else? Every time we pay out billions of dollars in tax giveaways to attract growth, each and every one of us pays the price in overcrowded schools and roads, spiking rent and real estate to unsustainable levels, resulting in increased community stressors as more people, especially seniors on fixed incomes, become homeless or unable to maintain their quality of life.
Instead, let’s welcome Amazon HQ2 to set up shop on our terms. Pay your fair share in taxes, guarantee a living wage for all workers, not just the few at the top, and show us a thoughtful plan for good corporate citizenship. Then we’ll decide if your company deserves Nevada instead of the other way around.