In case you missed it, the Washington Post reported late last week that Amazon may be reconsidering its decision to place part of its so-called “second headquarters” in New York City. The apparent second-guessing comes as local advocacy groups continue to protest Amazon’s appearances at city council meetings, and as the state’s Democratic lawmakers appointed a politician who has been critical of Amazon, state Sen. Michael Gianaris, to a board that has the power to nix the deal.

One of the two sources “familiar with Amazon’s thinking” gave what could be construed as a thinly veiled threat to the Post: “The question is whether it’s worth it if the politicians in New York don’t want the project, especially with how people in Virginia and Nashville have been so welcoming,” the source asked.

Although I think it would be fascinating to see how other cities would react if Amazon announced it was leaving New York, color me skeptical that Amazon is actually going to ditch the Big Apple. During the HQ2 bidding process, Amazon had plenty of other cities offering the ecommerce giant much larger subsidy packages. One city, Fresno, even offered to give Amazon a say in how the city spent taxpayer money. And I’m sure that other cities were willing to have gone even further than that, had they gotten to the final steps in the bidding process.

But Amazon instead chose New York. I believe that’s because Amazon knew deep down that NYC was one of the few cities capable of supplying the right technical talent for its desired 25,000 jobs. If Amazon believed that any other city could handle that many jobs, then why wouldn’t it go somewhere that was also offering them more tax breaks?

Even if Amazon decided to pick up its ball and leave, a company of its size and reach is still going to have to maintain a decent presence in New York. Why damage your relationship with a city that you know you’re still going to have to work with in the future?

But I think what’s really interesting here is that the Big Tech backlash has gotten so big in places like NYC that tech companies can no longer ignore it. And the rhetoric of community groups is now being parroted by politicians like Sen. Gianaris. I’ve embedded a recent interview he did with CNN below. Does the talk about not wanting to turn into San Francisco and Seattle sound familiar?

I imagine that cities around the country are only going to copy New York’s tactics the next time a big tech company comes to town, and I’m curious to see what this new era brings for the future of tech’s relationship with cities.

As always, thanks for reading, and please send me your thoughts and feedback via email. Lastly, don’t forget to register for BLUEPRINT York, happening on March 26-28.

Anna Hensel
Heartland Tech Reporter

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Check out this video from CNN Business, “Gianaris on Amazon HQ2: We’ve stood up and the people are being heard.”

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