Amazon finally announced their intentions on the location for their second headquarters.  Shocking to no one, it will be split between New York City and Crystal City in Arlington.  

If you haven’t been tracking this story, let me fill you in. For a year or two now, Amazon has been “shopping around” for a second home.  Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, was having cities compete against each other to become that new home with tax incentives, improvements to infrastructure, and large available talent pools.    At stake was roughly $5 billion in economic investment and 50,000 high-paying corporate positions to be created by 2030. This doesn’t include potential new businesses that work in the Amazon supply chain providing other services or products.

I’ve been keeping tabs on this story to see where it goes.  I never had a shadow of doubt that it was coming to Northern Virginia. Amazon already has a presence in D.C.  Bezos owns the Washington Post, the Amazon lobbying arm is close to the capital, the tech talent pool is deep, and Bezos bought a $23 million-dollar mansion in DC in 2016 that has major renovations going on.

It just seemed cruel to make other cities jump thru those hoops when they never had a shot.  

But with the announcement on November 13th of the two new locations, what do I expect we’ll see in coming years?

In a nutshell here are the items that have been announced:

  • The average salary is expected to be $150,000.  The median wage has not been announced.

  • The State of Virginia has pledged $295 million of non-general funds to work on transportation projects such as:  new metro stations, connector bridge from Crystal City to National Airport, and improvements to Route 1.

  • Virginia Tech will establish a new campus in Alexandria.

There are some potential downsides as well, including a spike in real estate prices.  Housing brokerage firm Redfin announced over a 200% spike in home searches for the Crystal City area the day that the Amazon announcement was made.  This has made some residents concerned that the creation of a second Silicon Valley in the DMV will make housing completely unaffordable.

The state transportation authorities need to get a quick jump on the on the new projects.  We all know how bad the traffic is in Northern Virginia and bringing in a company like Amazon is going to exacerbate the problem.  These projects need to be fast tracked.

I would urge a county like Culpeper to explore what it would take to get Virginia Railway Express (VRE) extended down from Manassas to Culpeper.  I personally know several people that already commute into Washington that drive to Manassas to catch The VRE and then jump on Metro. I see it very feasible that the influx of new high paying jobs in Northern Virginia would make Culpeper a very attractive place to live and raise a family, but they would absolutely need a simplified commute option.

There have been many questions on some of Amazon’s personnel practices within their major warehouses, which is a story for another time.   But one thing I will always give Jeff Bezos credit for was his ability to delay gratification when Amazon was beginning to make a name for itself.  When Wall Street was begging for better returns in the earlier years, he kept heavily investing back into the company. Now that discipline has paid off with Amazon expected to take almost 50% of all U.S. online sales by the end of the year and created a cloud infrastructure that is 31% in the global market place.  If that type of investment is made in the communities and workforce, everyone should come out on top.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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