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Foss: We don't need Amazon

Foss: We don't need Amazon

How much will it cost taxpayers?
Foss: We don't need Amazon
Photographer: Rendering provided

Four New York cities submitted bids for Amazon's second headquarters, but good luck trying to learn more about the tax breaks and financial incentives contained in these proposals. 

Based on the state's history of bribing companies to come here, one can safely assume that the amounts are obscene. 

Perhaps not as obscene as the $7 billion in tax credits the state of New Jersey is dangling in from of Amazon, but obscene nonetheless. 

As I predicted, cities throughout America are embarrassing themselves in their effort to win the heart of Amazon. 

The groveling and genuflecting has been comical to observe, but also sad and worrisome. 

It raises the question of whether a single company should wield this much power over state and local governments, and also illustrates the pitfalls of the engaging in such an opaque recruiting process. 

After all, it's tough to evaluate whether the cost of bringing Amazon to your community if you don't even know what those costs are. 

And if the nonsense statement The Daily Gazette received from the Center for Economic Growth in response to a query about how much it cost to put the Albany Amazon proposal together is any indication, the bid process is likely to remain shrouded in mystery. 

Our query was a simple one: How much did this cost? 

The answer was a bunch of gobbledygook: 

"A great deal of work from CEG staff and board members went into producing our Amazon HQ2 bid, but this is what the business community expects of us. This is why local business leaders formed CEG three decades ago, and why they've invested more than $6 million in our organization over the past year. CEG played an important role in laying the groundwork for GlobalFoundries' chip plant and countless other projects, and they would not have been possible without the type of work we are doing now and the support from the business community. We did not get this far by thinking small." 

My first thought, upon reading this, was to wonder whether I could have tricked my math teachers by offering up similar nonsense. Rather than submit an incorrect number on an exam, maybe I should have tried my luck with "I did not get this far by thinking small." 

My second thought was that the Capital Region does not need Amazon's second headquarters, known as HQ2. 

The costs — whatever they are — will be too high, and will transform the area into something very different: a company town beholden to a massive corporation that will drive up housing prices, create traffic headaches and significantly alter the local landscape. 

The renderings of CEG's proposed Amazon campus depict what can only be described as a monstrosity — millions of square feet of gleaming new office space in Albany and Rensselaer. 

It's true that the waterfront of both cities would benefit from some development — but is this really the kind of development we want?

Would the people who already live in these communities see the benefits of the enormous growth that Amazon would bring to the region — or would they find themselves priced out of neighborhoods by young tech workers? 

These aren't idle questions. 

In an essay for Politico titled "This is What Really Happens When Amazon Comes to Your Town," Seattle resident Paul Roberts writes that Amazon is transformative, but not always for the better. 

"What was once a quirkily mellow, solidly middle-class city now feels like a stressed-out, two-tier town with a thin layer of wealthy young techies atop a base of anxious wage workers," Roberts writes. "As one City Council member put it, HQ2 may give Seattle 'a little breathing room' to cope with a decade of raging, Amazon-fueled growth. A commenter on a local news site was less diplomatic: 'Amazon = cancer.'" 

Of course, there's little reason to worry about Amazon coming to Albany. 

The CEG proposal is a long shot, and that's being charitable. 

But that doesn't mean there aren't lessons to be learned from this absurd process.

Once the dust settles, we should think long and hard about how we can build a sustainable local economy without selling our souls. We can do this without Amazon — and we'll be better off for it. 

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