Landing Amazon's $5 billion new headquarters and its 50,000 tax-paying workers would be quite the coup. And possibly quite the headache.
Officials and civic organizers in some of the 20 cities now vying to win Amazon's choice for its second headquarters are sounding alarms that accommodating this tech talent invasion could put a big strain on local residents already grappling with crawling commutes and high housing prices.
In Nashville, citizens concerned about how a new Amazon headquarters might exacerbate already significant housing issues were blunt about how well-paid tech workers could drive up both the prices for rental units and homes alike.
"We have a housing crisis now and all this would do is throw gasoline on the fire," says John Summers, a former city council member who now leads the Coalition for Nashville Neighborhoods. "We cannot build affordable housing to replace what's being lost by the rapid gentrification in all of our inner-city neighborhoods."
Some even don't even seem to mind if Amazon picks another suitor. Just days after Denver made the finals, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper told the City Club of Denver "I'm not going to cry," according to The Denver Post, if CEO Bezos didn't choose the Mile High City,
While Hickenlooper later clarified that he was excitedly pursuing the headquarters because he felt it was the right thing for the city and state, he allowed that some citizens would feel "a sense of relief if they choose somewhere else because there are a lot of challenges and lot of hard work we will be avoiding."
In sprucing up their Amazon bids for billionaire CEO Jeff Bezos, cities ranging from Atlanta to New York will need to take an honest look at whether housing stock and public transportation — both critical to a winning bid — are up to the HQ2 challenge.
Boston has been trying to find a solution for its growing traffic problems in part by efforts to link its commuter rail lines, says Barry Bluestone, professor of public policy at Northeastern University in Boston. "Our town has the talent and the excitement (to win the bid), but we have to find a way to move these new workers," he says.
That's a concern shared even by fans of the Washington, D.C., area's three finalist bidders. Richard Bedrick, a graduate student studying real estate development at the University of Maryland at College Park, says that while he is excited D.C., northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Md., are all in the running, the traffic implications of a win make him pause.
"D.C. has enough (traffic) as it is," says Bedrick.
Those sentiments are echoed among some in finalists hubs such as Miami, Raleigh, N.C., and in particular Los Angeles, which already is notorious for its gridlock.
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And then there's the influx of people that come with Amazon's second national headquarters.
Business owner Mina Lee grew up in Montgomery County, home of wealthy D.C. suburbs such as Bethesda, and says she is "super excited" and about the "great opportunity" of hosting HQ2. But at the same time she is concerned that a flood of new young workers and their families could cause overcrowding in schools.
"You're starting to see, I think, resistance and push-back to this continual grow, grow, grow, grow at any cost," says Nashville neighborhoods advocate Summers.