Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Officials Pledge Action on Flooding — “Perhaps sensitive to growing community disenchantment over past performance in addressing heavy-rain incidents, County Board members on July 13 pledged to find ways to improve local-government efforts to address the impact of flooding. ‘We have to up our game,’ acknowledged County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey.” [InsideNova]

Residents Demand Stormwater Fixes — “Alexandra Lettow was near tears as she described the losses her family suffered in Monday’s flooding to neighbors and county officials gathered at a home in Arlington’s Waverly Hills neighborhood… It was at least the seventh time the neighborhood had flooded in 19 years.” [Washington Post]

Flood Insurance Doesn’t Cover All Losses — “They have a FEMA-backed flood insurance policy through Liberty Mutual… When the insurance adjuster came Tuesday to assess the damage she dropped a bombshell. Right there in the middle of the policy it reads, for property in a basement, coverage is limited.” [WJLA]

Arlington Man Leads Police on Chase — “At first the Expedition refused to stop for the trooper, but finally pulled off and stopped on the shoulder. A few minutes into the traffic stop, the driver of the Expedition drove off from the trooper and a pursuit was initiated westbound on I-66.” [Press Release]

Board Approved 23rd Street Tunnel Request — “After years of maintaining the little-used 23rd Street pedestrian tunnel that runs under Richmond Highway in Crystal City, Arlington will request its closure from the state.” [Arlington County]

New Renderings of Rosslyn Hotel Development — “The proposed development… would replace the Holiday Inn at 1900 N. Fort Myer Drive with a building which combines residential, hotel and conference center uses along with retail and restaurant space. A 38-story tower fronting N. Fort Myer would contain a four-star hotel with 344 rooms (compared to the previously-proposed 327), and a 25-story residential tower fronting Nash Street would deliver roughly 500 studio-to-three-bedroom units (compared to the previously-proposed 490).” [Urban Turf]

Interim Economic Development Director Named — “Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz has named Alex Iams interim director of Arlington Economic Development. Iams currently serves as assistant director of the department. He succeeds Victor Hoskins, who has served as director since January 2015.” [Arlington County]

Hoskins: Arlington in Good Shape — “Hoskins said that Arlington County has ‘nothing to worry about’ with Amazon coming in, adding that the move to Fairfax County is coming at the right time — ‘Yes, I’m done in Arlington.'” [Tysons Reporter]

Photo courtesy Craig Fingar

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(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Victor Hoskins, the head of Arlington Economic Development who helped Arlington woo Amazon and its HQ2 to the county, is leaving for a job with Fairfax County.

The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority announced today that Hoskins will be its new president and CEO, replacing its now-retired longtime leader, Gerry Gordon. FCEDA is one of the largest economic development agencies in the country, with six global satellite offices.

Hoskin’s departure is seen as a major loss for Arlington, at a crucial time for the county with Amazon moving in and another key economic development official, Christina Winn, recently departing for the top economic job with Prince William County.

“We wish Victor well,” Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a statement to ARLnow. “He has been a great leader and we know that he will continue to be a force for great regional collaboration.”

Schwartz says the county may announce an interim director for AED later this week.

More from an FCEDA press release, after the jump.

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A pair of commercial property tax hikes in D.C. may drive additional economic activity in Arlington, according to a new report.

Commercial real estate services firm JLL says higher commercial property taxes in the District — a 2.2% hike from $1.85 to $1.89 per $100 of assessed value — “will cause rent paid by office tenants to jump further, at a time when the market’s supply-demand paradigm strongly favors tenants.”

The report also says an approved 72% increase in the District’s deed transfer and recordation tax will cause commercial property sales activity to “grind to a halt in the mid- to long-term.”

The new taxes will take effect Oct. 1, at the beginning of D.C.’s new fiscal year, as part of a $15.5 billion budget that includes new investments in affordable housing.

Between D.C. making itself more expensive for commercial property owners and lessees, and the arrival of Amazon’s HQ2, JLL says conditions are ripe for increased economic activity in Northern Virginia and Arlington, in particular.

DC’s losses will be Northern Virginia’s gains. These tax hikes come at a time when Northern Virginia is heating up as an investment alternative to DC. Transaction costs were already substantially lower in Arlington County than in Washington, and now will be even more so. It is no stretch to say that this will attract capital away from DC and toward Arlington’s top-tier offerings, of which there will be many when HQ2-related demand spurs the development of new buildings and the lease-up of old ones.

Bisnow, which first reported on the study, quoted JLL Managing Director of Research John Sikaitis as saying the new dynamic could drive increased investment interest and office leasing in Arlington.

With the increased taxes on commercial property sales making deals harder to pencil in D.C., the JLL researchers expect investors will begin to look across the river. Northern Virginia has traditionally not been viewed as the same type of core market as D.C. in the eyes of outside investors, but an improving office market and expected growth from Amazon HQ2 has them taking a closer look.

“No one denies now that Arlington is a core market with a significant amount of future urban demand,” Sikaitis said. “You’re now seeing institutional investors start to look at Arlington from an investment perspective, which didn’t happen 12 or 24 months ago. Their allocation to D.C. could be allocated to Arlington.”

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Morning Notes

Auditor Looking at Economic Development Funds — “Are economic-incentive funds provided to corporations by the Arlington County government being doled out in accordance with agreements? The county government’s auditor is going to take a look… The audit, already under way, will look only at whether terms of agreements are being complied with; overall effectiveness of the sometimes controversial economic-incentive policy ‘is not part of the scope.'” [InsideNova]

Suspicious Letter at Fort Myer — “Joint Base Myer Henderson-Hall police and other agencies investigated a suspicious letter this afternoon that was delivered on the Fort Myer portion of the joint base. It was determined to not have any dangerous substance on or in it.” [Twitter]

Lauding Arlington’s Retiring Election Chief — “As her tenure as director of elections approaches its end, Linda Lindberg on June 18 was honored by Arlington County Board members for her service. Lindberg — who has served in Arlington’s elections office since 1994 and has been registrar since 2003 — has delivered ‘an outstanding career of public service,’ County Board Chairman Christian Dorsey said during a ceremony marking her tenure.” [InsideNova]

Arts Group Applauds Arts Plan — “Embracing Arlington Arts – an independent citizens group comprised of Arlington arts supporters – applauds the County Board for formally adopting Arlington’s Strategic Plan for the arts – “Enriching Lives” at their Board meeting [on] June 18. This well-researched plan brought together arts professionals, experts, stakeholders and citizens in its development.” [Press Release]

Arlington Developer Plans Senior Projects — “A multifamily developer is making a $200 million senior living play, with five such projects coming together under the company’s new Aspire brand, and potentially more on the way in the Mid-Atlantic. Arlington, Virginia-based Bonaventure has communities under construction or development across the commonwealth, in Alexandria, Woodbridge, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Richmond.” [Senior Housing News]

New Solar Co-op — “Neighbors in Arlington County (including Alexandria… and Fairfax County) have formed a solar co-op to save money and make going solar easier, with the help of nonprofit Solar United Neighbors. Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy, EcoAction Arlington, and Virginia Clean Cities are sponsoring the co-op.” [Press Release]

Arlington Tech Co. Gets New CEO — Rosslyn-based Snag, “the country’s largest and fastest-growing platform for hourly work, announced today new changes to its executive leadership team. Mathieu Stevenson has been appointed Chief Executive Officer… Stevenson will lead the company forward, with Rosati’s active involvement, to realize Snag’s mission of revolutionizing how hourly workers and employers connect.” [Snag]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

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Morning Notes

Arlington Loses Top Economic Development Official — “Christina Winn, one of the lead Arlington officials tasked with luring Amazon to the county, is taking over as Prince William County’s top economic development official.” [Washington Business Journal]

Marymount Prez Wants to Double Enrollment — “Irma Becerra hit the ground running the moment she took over the Marymount University presidency… her chief goal is as straightforward as it is ambitious: Double the school’s size in the next five years.” [Washington Business Journal]

18th Street Headache — “As they wrap up the demolition of the Clark St. bridge over 18th [Street S. in Crystal City], the eastbound side of 18th will be closed Thursday and Friday this week.” [Twitter]

Howell Gets Fall Challenger — “It’s an uphill battle, to be certain, but Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance president Arthur Purves will take on, as a Republican, seven-term incumbent state Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd) in the Nov. 5 election. The district snakes from Howell’s home turf of Reston eastward into portions of Arlington.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Treasurer Leads State Association — “Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava was sworn in as the President of the Treasurers’ Association of Virginia (TAV) at the association’s annual conference in Arlington.” [Press Release]

Boeing’s Space HQ Moving Out of Arlington — “Boeing will move its space headquarters from Arlington, Va., to the Florida Space Coast as it pursues a number of rocket and spacecraft programs, including one that would launch astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the space shuttle retired in 2011.” [Washington Post]

Townhomes Proposed for Crystal House Property — “The proposed expansion of the Crystal House apartment complex is getting a little larger, with 21 townhomes now part of plans at the Crystal City property… The company has already filed for permission to add 798 units across four new buildings on the 29.8-acre site.” [Washington Business Journal]

Nearby: Design of Potomac Yard Metro Revealed — “The city of Alexandria, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and Potomac Yard Constructors, the private joint venture picked to build the station, have submitted a design for an upcoming evaluation by the city’s Board of Architectural Review. The station design calls for a stone base, a metal canopy and metal louvers, a glass curtain wall and exo-skeleton system, a standing seam metal roof and roof skylight panels. There will be bathrooms on the eastern side, between a set of elevators and an electrical room.” [Washington Business Journal]

Photo courtesy Celia Slater

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Morning Notes

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

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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

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Morning Notes

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

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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.

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Morning Notes

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

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(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.

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