Florida businesses in danger after Amazon HQ2 contest
Amazon was promised nearly $5 billion in taxpayer incentives from the HQ2 sweepstakes winners New York and Northern Virginia – corporate welfare that has been roundly condemned by progressives and conservative alike.
But less attention has been paid to the troves of “rarely public” data Amazon received from Miami and the 235 other losers of the yearlong competition – data on everything from economic development projects and infrastructure investments to population projections and anticipated employment trends.
Amazon having this enormous database is a threat to businesses big and small across the country that do not readily have access to the same information.
South Florida lawmakers should call for this data to be made widely available – not merely in a PDF addressed to Amazon – for all businesses so that those operating in or wanting to locate to Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach counties can compete fairly against Amazon. This public disclosure should include the secret answers to Amazon’s follow-up questions.
Amazon fielded bids from 238 municipalities in total, and many of those bids offered economic development plans; transportation information and infrastructure planning; labor and wage rate information; housing capacity; crime rates; and energy costs. Having this data on hand, Amazon now has a systematic advantage over other businesses wanting to operate or locate in the three counties that put in a collective bid as “Miami.”
While the proposal is still under lock and key, there is little doubt that South Florida walked into the same trap so many others did.
Las Vegas submitted a 142-page proposal that provides a color-coded map of a new planned transportation corridor between Las Vegas and Phoenix. San Francisco put together a 160-page proposal that details housing development plans and presents a chart with a neighborhood-by-neighborhood breakdown. In Toledo’s bid, there was a “Supplemental Materials” section with a full mark-up of a planned shopping complex – including which buildings certain companies will occupy.
A critical question is what Miami’s collective bid told Amazon in secret answers to the follow-up questions sent to all HQ2 finalists.
New York is one of the few finalists whose follow-up answers have come to light, and even in that case, the city acted as though it had something to hide. After the document was briefly made available online, it was abruptly taken down – a city spokesperson said it contained proprietary information. What propriety information did Miami’s secret answers include?
Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s head of economic development, said herself that the HQ2 bidding process gave them insight into the future economic plans of the 238 communities that submitted bids.
“Through this process, we learned about many new communities across North America that we will consider as locations for future infrastructure investment and job creation,” she said. This very well could have been the reason Amazon decided to have a bidding war in the first place, considering the fact that Amazon sent a 30-page request of questions to all of the 20 HQ2 finalists.
The impact on Miami businesses and local economies across the country could be devastating.
Amazon has already expanded its shipping and distribution network in recent years and gained an unprecedented competitive edge by raking in public subsidies. This has crushed independent retailers, 90 percent of which say that Amazon is having a negative impact on their revenue. Amazon is even striking deals with local governments to supply school materials, for instance, undercutting local suppliers.
Now, as a result of the HQ2 bidding process, Amazon knows when, where and how communities plan to invest – giving it even more of a competitive edge.
Miami lawmakers must do the right thing and immediately release all HQ2 bid information – including the secret answers to Amazon’s follow-up questions – so that businesses can compete on a level playing field and ensure that Amazon doesn’t use this information to stamp out its competition.