Amazon set to pick two locations for second US headquarters

Amazon’s controversial search for a site for its second headquarters – HQ2, as it has been called – is about to end in a surprise decision to choose two locations, according to The New York Times.

Citing sources close to the decision, the paper reported that Amazon is finalising plans to base a total of 50,000 employees in Long Island City, in the Queens district of New York and the Crystal City area of Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, DC.  

The process has been controversial because of the incentives that more than 200 competing municipalities have been offering Amazon in return for its investment.

Such incentives were seen as government subsidies by Bernie Sanders, the leftwing senator for Vermont, who proposed a tax on large employers to help fund government assistance for their workers.

The bill was called "Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act", or Stop BEZOS for short, referencing Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos. The company has since announced a pay rise for its US workers, from $14 an hour to $15.

Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, which monitors government investments in businesses, told Bloomberg: "The way they launched this public auction was really ham handed. It was an obvious grab for the maximum tax break, and now they’re under the microscope."

Amazon executives have met with New York State governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City mayor Bill de Blasio in recent weeks. Cuomo told reporters on Monday that he was doing everything he could to close the deal with Amazon. "We have a great incentive package," he said, adding that if necessary, he would change his name to "Amazon Cuomo".

However, Mayor de Blasio struck a different note. He said: "We do not believe in subsidies to corporations for retention or to attract corporations.  

"That’s a very strong view that I hold, and it’s the difference from the Bloomberg administration that did believe in those kind of corporate subsidies."

Image: Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, complete with biospherical thinking spaces (Amazon/NBBJ)

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