October 7, 2021
To paraphrase Animal House, Andy Jassy hasn’t dropped the big one — yet — but he put it in play this week. After years of deteriorating relations with their home city of Seattle and its ultra-progressive city council, Amazon’s CEO made it known that the online giant may look for greener pastures. Citing the city’s hostility toward their presence, Jassy suggested that the suburbs are looking better and better for a new home to its 50,000-employee home base (via Instapundit):
The world’s largest online retailer is by far the biggest private employer in Seattle with more than 50,000 workers. That distinction has proved a headache in recent years, with some residents and government officials blaming the company for exacerbating homelessness and traffic.
“I’d say the last five years, the city council has become less enamored with business or with Amazon,” Jassy said during an event hosted by technology news site GeekWire. “It’s just been rougher.” …
The company, which is wrapping up construction of an expanded Seattle headquarters campus, has since shifted its expansion planning toward neighboring cities like Bellevue and Redmond. Bellevue, just east of Seattle, “is where most of our growth will end up being,” Jassy said. He added that he wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon opened other offices in additional cities in the region.
Bloomberg notes that Amazon may have contributed to the current state of hostilities with the city. Three years ago, they made a $1 million contribution to the local chamber of commerce’s campaign to get more moderates on the city council. That worked out as well as could be expected in the pre-CHAZ era of Seattle; it backfired and left the impression that Amazon wanted to buy its own city council. The winning ultra-progressives came into office with an even bigger axe to grind against the city’s biggest capitalist organization.
Post-CHAZ and post-riot, one has to wonder whether Seattle voters might regret that choice. Even some of the city’s leadership had reason to regret that final expression of ultra-progressive activism. Remember Jenny Durkan’s abrupt about-face on CHAZ after the activists targeted her home?
The big question here is whether Amazon regrets its massive investment in its new Seattle HQ enough to abandon it and take the loss. Jassy might just be looking for more leverage with a now-chastened city council, but they’re not that chastened, and the situation hasn’t improved over the last year. Jassy may not completely abandon Seattle, but he can move enough of the business out of the council’s jurisdiction to make their budgeting a lot more complicated in the future. And it’s not just Amazon feeling the Bern, either. Things got so bad for Boeing that they decamped in 2001 for Chicago, as Don Surber reminds readers:
Seattle’s hostility to business led to Boeing’s departure for Chicago in 2001. The company was founded in Seattle in 1916. It decided last year to shutter its last factory in Seattle. …
No, to really kill business, you need a government that is hostile and frankly jealous of success. In 22 short years, the garage business became the top retailer in the country. Seattle is doing everything it can to force Amazon out.
The CEO finally got the hint because when it comes to Democrat policy, there is no such thing as unintended consequences. Seattle wants Amazon out. So be it.
Seattle’s city council doesn’t really want Amazon out. It wants Amazon to fund The Revolution, and resents the company’s refusal to do so. The council keeps escalating the stakes and assumes — weirdly — that Amazon has more invested in Seattle for its online business model than Boeing did for its manufacturing model. At some point, Jassy will have to call Seattle’s bluff and take the short-term loss on its commercial real estate venture, or the city council will have to back down from its capitalist bête noire. I’d put my bet on the former, and sooner rather than later. Either way, the radical leftists in Seattle are playing out a lose-lose scenario.