A powerful General Assembly committee has passed and forwarded to the full state Senate legislation that would grant Amazon up to $750 million in financial incentives for locating a secondary headquarters in Arlington and Alexandria.
“A lot of work has gone into this,” Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball told members of the Senate Committee on Finance prior to a Jan. 16 vote in support of the incentive package.
The company announced in November that it would split its “HQ2” facilities between Northern Virginia and the New York City area. About 25,000 direct jobs are expected to be created by the company in each region.
“It was a lengthy negotiation,” Ball said, praising the online giant as “a wonderful partner” throughout the process.
Under the incentive package, patroned by state Sen. Frank Ruff Jr. (R-Clarksville) and backed by the Northam administration, Amazon would be eligible for state funds for the jobs it creates in its new “HQ2” facility. The cash would be disbursed after the jobs arrive, not before.
A separate piece of legislation is taking up another key part of the commonwealth’s efforts to lure Amazon: Higher-education upgrades in Northern Virginia.
“We’re really excited” about the prospects of the partnership, said Holly Sullivan, who led the Amazon negotiating team that hammered out the deal.
“The leading driver of our decision [to locate in Northern Virginia] was the talent pool,” Sullivan said, touting HQ2 as a $2.5 billion investment that would augment the company’s 8,500 full-time employees and $29 billion in facilities spread across the commonwealth.
“They’re no stranger to Virginia,” Ball said.
The committee vote was 14-0, with two abstentions and one member absent. And the overall mood was jovial.
“I wonder if we were to vote this down, could we go back to the table and get a sweeter deal?” committee co-chair Sen. Emmett Hanger Jr. (R-Mount Solon) asked Amazon’s Sullivan.
“I guess I could ask the same question,” she retorted.
(“She’s tough to negotiate with,” Hanger chuckled.)
But the Amazon incentives are no laughing matter to some groups, which see them as corporate welfare.
“Amazon is bad for working people, bad for immigrants and bad for democracy,” said Danny Cendejas, an organizer of the “For Us, Not Amazon” campaign. “Instead of using the money to fund affordable housing, transit and education, Virginia is giving it right back to the company.”
Similar complaints have been raised in front of the Arlington County Board, which in coming months is set to vote on its own incentive package for Amazon.