DEA Staying in Pentagon City — “The Arlington County Board today approved an incentive grant that will keep the headquarters of the Drug Enforcement Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Justice, in Pentagon City following a lengthy federal competitive bid process. The agency occupies more than 511,000 square feet of space, and employs about 3,000 people at its Pentagon City location.” [Arlington County]
‘Take Your Child to Work Day’ for Cristol — Arlington County Board member Katie Cristol’s new baby boy made his public debut at Thursday’s meeting for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day. [Twitter]
Activists Still Pressing for Tree Removal Explanation — “Remember back last year, when top Arlington officials said they would provide the public – in writing – with the reasons the government would not take further steps to protect removal of a tree that had become symbolic to environmental activists across the county? You may have forgotten, but those activists have not.” [InsideNova]
‘Notable’ Trees Recognized — “Arlington has more than 750,000 trees of at least 122 species that provide $6.89 million in environmental benefits to the County annually in the form of pollution removal, carbon storage, energy savings, and avoided stormwater runoff. The Arlington County Board will designate 24 of these trees as Notable Trees at its April 25 Recessed Meeting. [Arlington County]
Water Main Break in Fairlington — Some 100 Arlington households were without water service for part of Thursday due to emergency water main repairs in the Fairlington neighborhood. [Twitter]
Gerber Incentives Pass — Gerber’s move to Arlington is one step closer thanks to an incentive package unanimously approved by the County Board on Tuesday. The package is divided between money from the state’s Commonwealth Opportunity Fund (COF) — $862,500 — and money earmarked for nearby infrastructure upgrades — another $862,500.
Nearby: Alexandria Peeved By Metro Surprise — “A month after Metro learned additional closures would be needed at the end of this summer’s Blue and Yellow line shutdown, Alexandria’s City Council lit into the agency’s top leaders Tuesday night about why the Virginia city and the public only learned of the extended work through a news release last week.” [WTOP]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
The Arlington County Board is poised to approve $1.7 million in state and local funds to incentivize Gerber to move its headquarters to the county.
The Board is scheduled to vote tonight (Tuesday) on whether or not to give $862,500 in state funds to baby food maker Gerber Products Company. Another $862,500 will be allocated for infrastructure improvements around the Rosslyn area, where the company’s headquarters will be moving.
The money is part of a bid enticing Gerber to make good on its promise to relocate its headquarters and 150 jobs to Rosslyn. Gerber parent company Nestle has already moved in to its new Rosslyn headquarters.
A staff report to the Board says $862,500 will come from the state’s Commonwealth Opportunity Fund (COF). It will be sent to Gerber via Arlington’s Industrial Development Authority “upon Gerber’s submission of a Certificate of Occupancy and with evidence that Gerber’s Chief Executive Officer has moved his or her office and operations to the facility.”
The incentives are intended to help Gerber build out its headquarters. More from the staff report:
The agreements require signatures by the County Manager on behalf of the Arlington County Board, by the Chair of the IDA, by the President and CEO of VEDP and by a representative of Gerber. The agreements contain the following requirements, among others:
- Gerber must make, or have made on its behalf, a capital investment of $5 million in the building at 1812 North Moore Street;
- Gerber must create and maintain 150 New Jobs in the Commonwealth of Virginia at an average annual compensation of $127,719; and
- Gerber must make its best efforts to ensure that at least 30% of the New Jobs are offered to residents of Virginia.
If the Board approves the plan, it will allocate $862,500 in funding to a handful of infrastructure projects already in motion:
- Move three bus stops blocking the front of Gerber and Nestle’s headquarters at 1812 N. Moore Street (a project staff said is already complete).
- Finish the on-street bike lanes and wide sidewalks planned for the Lynn Street Esplanade.
- Wrap up the project to widen Custis Trail and fix bike lanes, add ADA-compliant curb ramps and crosswalks with more visibility, among other changes.
- Complete the long-awaited, million-dollar Corridor of Light art installation near the Key Bridge
The funding vote is currently listed on the Board’s consent agenda, which is typically reserved for topics members intend to pass without debate.
Gerber was acquired by Nestlé in 2007 and has pledged to invest $5 million in relocating to Arlington. Nestlé has set up shop in its 250,000 square-foot office space in Rosslyn and promised to bring 750 jobs to the county.
Image courtesy of Arlington county
Protest in Front of Nestle Office in Rosslyn — “On Tuesday, Greenpeace activists hauled a 15-foot-tall heap of garbage, artfully crafted to resemble one of those deep sea fish that’s about 90 percent jowl, out in front of the Nestlé’s U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.” [Gizmodo, Twitter]
‘No Stopping’ Arlington’s Growth — “Historically a commuter bedroom city for Washington, D.C., Arlington, VA continues its development renaissance with a variety of mixed-use projects that will shuttle in new residents, create open spaces and make new room for more restaurants and companies.” [GlobeSt]
Arlington Ponies Up Incentives for DEA — “The Arlington County Board is set to vote later this month to grant up to $11.5 million in financial incentives to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Pentagon City landlord to keep the agency from relocating to neighboring Alexandria, just shy of half of what it has promised Amazon.com Inc. for its second headquarters.” [Washington Business Journal]
Possible Meteor Lights Up the Sky — There were numerous reports of a meteor seen over Arlington, the D.C. region and much of the East Coast around 11 p.m. last night. [Twitter, BNO News, NBC Washington]
County Touts Green Initiatives Ahead of Earth Day — “Few communities can boast Arlington’s ceaseless commitment to sustainability — which is why one day in April can barely hint at the work that happens in the months before and after.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler
Arlington officials have pitched Amazon on a program to help the company slash its business license tax burden when it sets up shop in Pentagon City and Crystal City — but the county is also admitting that Amazon could avoid that particular tax altogether.
Should an incentive package designed to bring the tech giant’s new headquarters to Arlington win county approval this weekend, Amazon will still be subject to all manner of local levies. In particular, officials are counting on real estate tax revenues from the company to generate an extra $342 million for county coffers over the next 16 years.
But it’s an open question how much in business license taxes — a levy known as the “Business, Professional and Occupational License” tax or “BPOL” — Amazon will actually need to pay. It’s an issue that’s fueled outrage from local Amazon critics, who argue that the county shouldn’t be offering tax breaks to an extremely valuable company owned by the world’s richest man, which has already successfully avoided paying federal taxes for the last few years.
Documents show that county officials have already marketed Arlington’s “Technology Zone” program to the company, an incentive program that could help Amazon slash its BPOL burden by as much as 72 percent for the next 10 years. It’s unclear whether Amazon might qualify for the tax break, but county staff say it’s also a possibility that the BPOL tax might not apply to the company at all.
In a report prepared for the County Board ahead of this weekend’s vote, staff wrote that Amazon “may be classified as a type of company that is not subject to BPOL at all, such as a retailer or wholesaler.” State law does indeed allow for a variety of exemptions to the tax, with organizations from banks to newspapers eligible to avoid the BPOL levy.
Or perhaps Amazon could avoid the BPOL tax because it’s levied on each company’s “gross receipts.” Staff write that “as a corporate headquarters and global company, Amazon may not have gross receipts attributable to the Arlington location,” largely due to where the sales in question might originate.
Christina Winn, director of business investment for Arlington Economic Development, says the county will examine “the point of sale” in making that determination. If the sales happen somewhere other than Arlington, the BPOL tax may not apply to Amazon.
“Taxes are very complicated, especially with these large companies where all their consultants are based in other places,” Winn said. “They’re based here, but they may be on site in some other state.”
Victor Hoskins, the head of Arlington Economic Development, previously told the Washington Post that other companies with large corporate headquarters in the county (like Nestle and Lidl) have avoided the tax for just that sort of reason. He said it “just hasn’t been the case for large global companies” that they’ve been subject to the BPOL rate.
Staff stressed in the report that they haven’t included any BPOL revenues in their projections of the company’s fiscal impact on Arlington, given the uncertainty over Amazon’s eligibility for the tax. Instead, the county has based its revenue assumptions on real and personal property taxes, hotel stay and meals taxes and sales taxes — Arlington is also counting on BPOL taxes from the company’s landlord in Crystal City, developer JBG Smith.
“Because it’s such a big company with many different lines of business, and they don’t know what businesses are coming into the Arlington facility, we just assumed zero for gross receipts,” Winn said. “We just felt like that was the most conservative and responsible way to model this project.”
Amazon will need to sort out these tax questions with county staff, likely involving the commissioner of revenue’s office.
If the company does qualify for the BPOL tax after all, it could still apply for the “Technology Zone” incentive, though that only applies for 10 years, and would slash (but not eliminate) Amazon’s BPOL tax payments.
If the county judges that the business units located at Amazon’s Arlington headquarters have “a primary function in the creation, design and/or research and development of technology hardware or software,” the company would qualify for the tax break. The program has gone relatively unused since it was last updated in 2014 — for full disclosure, ARLnow’s parent company applied for the tax break in 2015, but was rejected, despite approximately 20 percent of the company’s budget being devoted to web design, development and hosting.
“That incentive zone is there for any business, and Amazon can take advantage of it, if they want to,” County Board Vice Chair Libby Garvey said during an interview on WAMU 88.5’s Kojo Nnamdi Show Friday. “So, we’re really treating Amazon — as hard as it is to believe — basically, like any other business. So, we’re not telling them that every other business can make use of this tech zone incentive that we have and you can’t.”
The Board is set to vote on the incentive package at its meeting Saturday (March 16), including the heart of the proposed offer to Amazon: an estimated $23 million over the next 15 years, drawn from a projected increase in hotel tax revenues driven by the company’s arrival.
However, the county has recently conceded that number could go higher (or lower) depending on what sort of impact local hotels actually see in the coming years. Amazon will only be permitted to use that cash on building and furnishing its new headquarters.
Residents Support HQ2 in Letters — “Many Arlingtonians want Amazon.com Inc. to set up HQ2 in Crystal City and Pentagon City — or at least that is what a slew of letters and emails to the [Arlington County Board] seems to indicate… ‘I would say the theme of the emails is: ‘Don’t blow it,” [Libby] Garvey said.” [Washington Business Journal]
Expect Fireworks at County Board Meeting — “Board Chair Christian Dorsey (D) said he has ‘no interest’ in postponing [this weekend’s Amazon] vote and has heard no suggestions to do so from other board members. He expects the measure to pass, but he also said anywhere from 100 to 400 speakers could show up for the public hearing before the vote.” [Washington Post]
More on Expected HQ2 Jobs — “While Amazon has said about half of the 25,000 HQ2 jobs here will be tech-related, we now know a bit more about the breakdown, thanks to a Thursday talk by Ardine Williams, vice president of people operations for the company, to high schoolers.” [Washington Business Journal]
Extended Comcast Outage — Much of Arlington lost its Comcast cable and internet service for several hours Sunday. [Twitter]
More Trouble for Trustify — “Real estate investment trust JBG Smith Properties Inc. is heading to court to try to collect on a $263,477.21 judgment against one of its tenants, private investigation startup Trustify. The Chevy Chase developer won an ‘unlawful detainer’ judgment against the company Jan. 31, allowing it to evict Trustify from its main office at 200 12th St. South in Crystal City.” [Washington Business Journal]
ACFD Helped Battle McLean Fire — Arlington County firefighters helped to extinguish a house fire in McLean over the weekend. One resident died in the blaze. [Tysons Reporter]
Flickr pool photo by Rex Block
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) Once Amazon starts to move into Arlington, the company could take advantage of a little-used county incentive program for tech firms to substantially slash its local tax burden.
Documents released in late January show that Arlington officials explicitly pitched the tech giant on the prospect of scoring major tax savings through the county’s “Technology Zone” program, back when they were still wooing Amazon last year. Created in 2001 and last updated in 2014, the program was designed to provide incentives for high-tech businesses to move to Arlington by offering significantly reduced rates for the county’s “Business, Professional and Occupational License” tax in certain neighborhoods.
Amazon wouldn’t be eligible to apply for the tax break until it actually sets up shop at its planned destinations in Crystal City and Pentagon City. One of the county’s “Technology Zones” runs along the “Jefferson Davis Corridor,” including the neighborhoods near Route 1 that the tech firm hopes to someday call home.
Once it arrives, however, the company could use the program to shrink its BPOL rate by as much as 72 percent for the next decade.
The potential tax break was not described in the memorandum of understanding laying out the county’s promised incentives to the company signed by both parties on Nov. 9, 2018, nor was it mentioned in any subsequent announcement of Arlington’s plans for Amazon.
Yet the county did advertise the program in documents dated Oct. 11, 2018, recently posted on the county’s website, outlining Arlington’s pitch to Amazon.
“Based on the jobs Amazon creates, if the company is eligible for tech zone benefits, it would apply each year for that BPOL credit,” said Cara O’Donnell, a spokeswoman for Arlington Economic Development, which helped broker the Amazon deal. “It’s a standard part of our proposals to technology-related companies and each one is handled individually.”
Critics of the deal see this potential tax saving as part of a pattern for Amazon, however.
Amazon is already set to receive $750 million in state incentives designed to defray its state tax burden, and Arlington officials have insisted that the company’s massive expansion plans could have a transformative impact on the county’s flagging tax revenues. Yet this BPOL tax break could result in Arlington losing out on a hefty chunk of cash from Amazon — the county collected $65.6 million in BPOL revenue in the last fiscal year, its third largest source of tax dollars behind the real estate and personal property levies.
“Their track record is clear — they try to do everything they can not to pay taxes,” said Danny Cendejas, an organizer with the “For Us, Not Amazon” coalition opposing the company’s Arlington plans. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they were looking for every possible loophole.”
The company has drawn criticism before for successfully avoiding paying any federal taxes for the last two years, largely by leveraging a mix of tax breaks and credits.
But O’Donnell stressed that county officials “have not factored BPOL into any of our revenue projections” associated with the company’s arrival. The county has long expected to see about $342 million in tax revenues from Amazon as it develops the new headquarters over the next 16 years.
O’Donnell added that the company would have to apply for the program like any other business.
Without the “Technology Zone” tax break, Amazon would also be responsible for paying $0.36 for every $100 of its gross receipts as part of the BPOL tax. Should it earn eligibility for that program, the company could see the rate cut in half if it can prove it employs up to 499 people in “business units with a primary function in the creation, design and/or research and development of technology hardware or software,” according to county documents.
If Amazon can show it employs up to 999 people for those purposes, it could pay a rate of $0.14 per $100 of receipts. If the company exceeds 1,000 employees, it would pay $0.10 for every $100.
The company hasn’t settled on the exact mix of job functions for the 25,000 to 38,000 employees who could someday call the Arlington headquarters home — Holly Sullivan, the company’s worldwide head of economic development, said at an event in Arlington last week that she anticipates a “50-50” split between tech workers and other staff on the campus, making it a pretty safe bet that Amazon could meet the program’s standards.
The potential size of the company’s tax savings also remains a bit murky. County documents estimated that the “Technology Zone” savings “are equivalent to approximately $2 to $3 per square foot in building occupancy costs annually.”
Kasia Tarczynska, a research analyst with Good Jobs First, an advocacy group studying the Amazon deal, says that the savings are difficult to estimate, but she suspects it would work out to “a lot of money because of the size of the project.”
And Tarczynska adds that this is the first she’s heard of Amazon being eligible for the tax break. The head of Good Jobs First, vocal Amazon critic Greg LeRoy, agreed with her assessment.
Many of Amazon’s local opponents were similarly surprised to hear the news that the company could reap the tax savings, particularly given the frequent assurances from county leaders that Amazon would help relieve the recent strain on Arlington’s finances.
“In all of the numerous meetings I’ve been to with the [County Board], they have never once mentioned the tech zone incentive,” said Roshan Abraham, an anti-Amazon organizer with Our Revolution Arlington.
Tarczynska says that such a tax break “is a common subsidy in the region” — neighboring Fairfax County has a similar program — yet Arlington has regularly seen anemic participation in the program.
When ARLnow last investigated the program in 2015, just eight businesses were currently taking advantage of it. These days, O’Donnell says the county has recorded approximately 70 businesses participating in the program since it began.
As a professional economic developer, I’m often asked by my fellow Arlington residents and business owners about the importance of economic development.
After all, we have a thriving community with notable businesses, excellent schools, a highly educated workforce, an unemployment rate of 1.7% and beautiful parks and green spaces. What else do we need?
Well, the problem is that our commercial vacancy rates are too high and we need to continue to broaden the commercial tax base. Arlington’s 2018 4th quarter vacancy rate is at 17.2% (which is significantly better than the almost 21% in early 2015), and it could take up to 10 years or more before we can reach a baseline level of 10%.
Arlington County lost 34,000 jobs since 2001 due to the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC), corporations right-sizing and the increased mobility of their workforce. Even with Arlington Economic Developments efforts to strategically market the county to attract new businesses, retain our existing business base and encourage our businesses to grow and expand, it takes time to recover.
So why do vacancy rates matter? And most importantly, why does it matter to you? The majority of Arlington’s taxes comes from either the commercial or residential property taxes collected.
Those taxes are what funds the services that we all enjoy as Arlington residents. Historically, Arlington is unique because our tax base is derived from almost 50% residential and 50% commercial. In most other communities the residential tax base carries the weight — which means the people that live there pay higher taxes.
If our commercial office buildings are vacant with no occupied businesses (currently almost 1/5 of the 40 million square feet of office space is empty), then that means Arlington County is not collecting as much property and business taxes, which puts pressure on the general fund in providing the services we all enjoy.
Our schools, transportation systems, parks and human services struggle for limited funds. Luckily, the recruitment of Amazon will go a long way to help broaden the commercial tax base and increase tax revenues to fund these services.
So yes, economic development is important to you. As an Arlington resident, I want to continue to have top-notch public schools for my kids. I enjoy our beautiful and convenient parks and enjoy that my trash is picked every week.
As a result, we will continue to market Arlington to attract new companies. We will expand our engagement programs to retain our existing employers and help them expand and grow. We truly understand that our mission is to generate revenue for Arlington County, and every program, service and project is focused on that goal.
Every time you read in the paper that a new business has located to Arlington, be excited because that means their taxes are paying for your services.
Amazon executives say they’re looking forward to becoming “good neighbors” in Arlington, delivering a decidedly optimistic message to local leaders in one of the company’s first public events since tabbing the county for its new headquarters.
The tech giant’s head of worldwide economic development, Holly Sullivan, assured a crowd of government officials and business executives last night (Thursday) that the company is looking to build a “sustainable long-term partnership” in the region. That presented a stark contrast with Amazon’s recent decision to spurn New York City over concerns that local leaders were insufficiently supportive of a new headquarters there.
The event, organized by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and held at George Mason University’s Virginia Square campus, also came just a few days after Arlington officials and activists expressed concern that Amazon executives haven’t done enough to engage the community as it gears up to move into the area.
Sullivan challenged that idea Thursday, arguing the company plans to be “active in the community” and has “just started our outreach” in Arlington. But only a limited group of Arlingtonians had the chance to hear that message — the event was “invitation-only,” though the COG did offer a livestream for anyone hoping to watch from home.
That stricture prompted some local critics of the project to refuse to attend the event, calling on the company to hold public hearings with community members instead. Many have been especially critical of Arlington’s proposed incentive package for Amazon — if the County Board approves it next month, Arlington would fork over $23 million over the next 15 years to a company owned by the world’s richest man.
On that front, Sullivan was able to offer significantly less reassurance. In response to a rare question from a reporter at the event, she pointedly would not say whether the company would pull the plug on its Arlington plans if the Board rejects the incentive package.
“The talent in the area was the primary driver of this entire process,” Sullivan said. “But incentives are important to us. They give us an opportunity to reinvest in our infrastructure and development opportunities for our workforce.”
Of course, it’s quite unlikely that the Board would take such a step. Even Board members who have expressed some unease with the incentive package have reasoned that it’s a small price to pay for the 25,000 (or more) jobs Amazon hopes to bring to the county.
The business community has also been increasingly vocal in support of the project. Not only has the Arlington Chamber of Commerce repeatedly thrown its weight behind the effort, but the Crystal City-based Consumer Technology Association recently joined in the fight as well. The CEO of the tech advocacy group attended the event to welcome Amazon to the neighborhood, and the CTA organized a crowd of dozens of pro-Amazon demonstrators to hold signs outside the gathering.
“We know this is a historic moment, not just for Arlington, but the whole region,” said Victor Hoskins, head of Arlington Economic Development.
To assuage anyone concerned that the company would bring a huge surge of out-of-state workers to jam area roads and pack local apartment buildings, Sullivan stressed that, in a perfect world, company executives “hope to hire all 25,000 workers locally.”
But she followed that up with a laugh, acknowledging that such a possibility is a bit unlikely. However, she is confident that D.C. region has enough highly skilled tech workers to provide a deep hiring pool for Amazon. And it helps, she believes, that the company already has corporate offices in both Herndon and D.C. to draw from too.
“A few people may choose to relocate from our Seattle headquarters, but this is not a relocation of corporate employees from Seattle,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan added that, wherever the company’s employees hail from, Amazon plans to design its offices in a way to “push employees out into the neighborhood to support local businesses.”
While the tech giant is still in the most preliminary phases of designing the office space it plans to lease from JBG Smith in Crystal City and build in Pentagon City, she said the company fully expects to draw from the design principles it used in Seattle.
“We’ll be trying to take the indoors outdoors and vice versa,” Sullivan said. “We want it to feel very much like a neighborhood. There will be no walls around it, no big sign that says ‘Amazon’ on it.”
That includes a focus on welcoming retailers and other restaurants onto the ground floor of the company’s offices. Though JBG has already worked fervently to bring more mixed-use developments to the area, it’s a process the area’s dominant property owner is hoping that Amazon will accelerate, to the whole neighborhood’s benefit.
“Crystal City gets pretty quiet at night, because everyone leaves right after work,” said Andrew VanHorn, JBG Smith’s executive vice president. “It may not be 24/7, but we want to make it more of an 18/7 environment.”
Until the Board signs off on the incentive package and Amazon starts submitting construction plans for its new offices, VanHorn pointed out that any design conversations are quite preliminary at this point.
However, he said JBG is working under the general assumption that the company will move into all of its leased office space in Crystal City by 2020. Then development work on a new building at Metropolitan Park in Pentagon City will run roughly from 2021 to 2025; construction at the former “Pen Place” development will run from 2023 to 2027.
Sullivan stressed that the buildings won’t look too out of step with the existing skyline, saying executives hope to “integrate into what’s already there” in Pentagon City.
Arlington’s notoriously extensive civic engagement process for new developments offers a long road ahead for the company, but Sullivan said she’s looking forward to embarking on it to answer a simple question: “How can we be a better neighbor?”
“We’re all doing this together,” Sullivan said. “We’re going to be neighbors.”
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Amazon is cancelling plans to build half of its “HQ2” in New York City, citing mounting criticism from local officials and activists in its reasoning for abandoning its other proposed location for a new headquarters outside Arlington.
But Amazon said in a statement announcing the change that it does not intend to re-open the HQ2 search and will “proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville.”
County Board Chair Christian Dorsey says the company told local officials that “nothing has changed” when it comes to Amazon’s plans for Arlington, and that the county isn’t likely to suddenly see jobs bound for New York head here instead.
Amazon originally announced plans to bring 25,000 jobs to Crystal City and Pentagon City in November, though the terms of the state incentive deal recently approved by Gov. Ralph Northam do allow for the company add another 12,850 jobs to the Arlington headquarters after that.
Dorsey told reporters on a conference call Thursday afternoon that the chances of the company reaching that larger number have likely increased with today’s news. However, he added that the county does not plan to try to lure any of the jobs originally set for New York to Arlington instead. Spokespeople for JBG Smith, Amazon’s future landlord in some buildings and development partner for others, declined to comment on Amazon’s New York City changes.
“If they want to occupy more square footage, that will be contingent on the community plans we already have in place for any business,” Dorsey said. “But at this point, there is no reason to speculate about that.”
Amazon pointed to a lack of “positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials” in explaining its decision to abandon its New York plans. Rumors first started circulating that the tech giant could spurn the city once New York lawmakers appointed a vocal Amazon critic to a state board that would have oversight over the state’s incentive package for the company, and a coalition of lawmakers and left-leaning activists have been intensely skeptical of Amazon’s plans for the city.
But Dorsey says this development has done little to change his opinion of Amazon as a partner for the county, praising the company’s executives as “collegial and collaborative” thus far.
“They’ve been a completely honest broker and we feel good about our relationship with them,” Dorsey said. “I can’t speculate about what went wrong in New York… we’re just trying to treat Amazon as they’ve treated us: by being transparent, honest and forthright. They’ve not only accepted who we are and our values, but embraced it.”
Amazon’s skeptics in the county think it’s foolish for local leaders to view today’s news so charitably. Roshan Abraham, an outspoken Amazon critic and a leader of the progressive group Our Revolution Arlington, thinks the company’s sudden decision to pull out of New York should give county officials “significant pause” in dealing with Amazon.
“This demonstrates Amazon’s need for control,” Abraham told ARLnow. “Amazon wants things to go their way, and if it doesn’t, they’ll leave. They’ll hold the county hostage with that threat. They’re clearly not afraid to use that to their advantage.
Abraham hopes the company’s decision to leave New York demonstrates “the power of activists and what activism can achieve,” and emboldens the tech company’s opponents around the county. Though anti-Amazon sentiment has been a bit more muted in the county than in New York, activists have raised concerns ranging from affordable housing to labor and environmental practices to the use of public funds to benefit one of the world’s largest companies.
But local leaders say they aren’t worried about any sort of major community backlash derailing Arlington’s own incentive deal for Amazon, just yet.
“Some things could change a little bit in our performance agreement with Amazon… and this is likely to contribute to some increased heat over the next six weeks,” County Board member Matt de Ferranti told ARLnow. “I don’t want to underplay it, but we’re certainly not panicked by it.”
The Board is still mulling that agreement, which will work out to about $23 million in grant money for the company over the next 15 years. The cash will be drawn only from a projected increase in hotel stay tax revenues that Amazon is expected to generate.
A vote on that deal was delayed after originally being targeted for this month, and Dorsey says the Board is currently eyeing March 16 for the big decision.
“We are excited that Amazon’s plans for Virginia remain in place and that we can continue working together to position Virginia’s dynamic tech sector for healthy, sustained, statewide growth,” Stephen Moret, the president and CEO of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (which helped broker the Amazon deal) wrote in a statement.
Here’s the full Amazon statement about its Valentine’s Day breakup with NYC:
After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.
We are disappointed to have reached this conclusion — we love New York, its incomparable dynamism, people, and culture — and particularly the community of Long Island City, where we have gotten to know so many optimistic, forward-leaning community leaders, small business owners, and residents. There are currently over 5,000 Amazon employees in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and we plan to continue growing these teams.
We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process. Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio have worked tirelessly on behalf of New Yorkers to encourage local investment and job creation, and we can’t speak positively enough about all their efforts. The steadfast commitment and dedication that these leaders have demonstrated to the communities they represent inspired us from the very beginning and is one of the big reasons our decision was so difficult.
We do not intend to re-open the HQ2 search at this time. We will proceed as planned in Northern Virginia and Nashville, and we will continue to hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada.
Thank you again to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and the many other community leaders and residents who welcomed our plans and supported us along the way. We hope to have future chances to collaborate as we continue to build our presence in New York over time.
The Made in Arlington Pop-Up is in full bloom on February 12 at the Courthouse Plaza Shop with new vendors and sweet treats for all the Valentines in your life.
Adding local charm to gifts of the heart, Arlington’s creative makers, artisans and entrepreneurs are part of a growing creative sector. Not sure how to declare your love or say it best? FastSnail greetings is on hand with artist designed cards that will make the recipient smile.
Welcome fresh flowers from new vendor Tiny Bloom Shop. Pick up a small vase of beauty designed by Gretchen Dimina, a former buyer for the Renwick Gallery shop, who puts charm and whimsy in all her arrangements.
Sweets for your sweet? Hand decorated cookies made from scratch are a hallmark of Village Sweet that spell out messages in icing. Or give in to a chocolate craving with rich delights from Kingsbury Chocolates.
Stop by and shop some local love!
Tuesday, February 12
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Plaza Library Shop
2100 Clarendon Blvd., 1st Floor Lobby
Apartment Project Feels ‘Amazon Effect’ — “The Amazon real estate effect in Northern Virginia is being felt from home sales to new development. Nearly two years ago, the owners of Crystal House Apartments applied to add a building and 252 units to the Crystal City Metro-proximate community. Now, that vision has more than tripled in size.” [UrbanTurf, Bisnow]
Arlington Has Low Home-School Rate — “Arlington has the lowest rate of home-schooled students in Northern Virginia, according to new state data. A total of 0.5 percent of Arlington students were home-schooled in the 2017-18 school year, according to a new jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction compilation by the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP).” [InsideNova]
Lots of Green Space for Future H-B Woodlawn Home — Despite a relatively small footprint and a vertical profile — rising five stories above grade — the future home of the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program in Rosslyn will have plenty of green space for students. “Standing on top and looking down, you will think it’s a hillside meadow, not a series of roofs,” said Arlington Public Schools’ design and construction director. [ENR Mid-Atlantic]
Champagne Lounge With a View in Rosslyn — “The Observation Deck at CEB Tower will debut a new Champagne-centric bar [this] week, inviting visitors to to sip bubbly from the area’s first 360-degree public observatory.” [Eater]
Sunday Funday Moves to G.O.A.T. — The popular and sometimes rowdy Sunday Funday festivities that took place at the now-closed A-Town Bar and Grill have been moved to A-Town’s sister bar The G.O.A.T in Clarendon. [Instagram]
Arlington Spots for Mocktails — Need to go sans alcohol to meet some of your New Year’s resolutions? Some of the best mocktails in Arlington can be found at spots like Fyve Restaurant at the Pentagon City Ritz-Carlton; Green Pig Bistro and Ambar in Clarendon; and the new Punch Bowl Social in Ballston. [Arlington Magazine]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf