by Sam Hieb
As you know, Raleigh is on the short list for Amazon’s HQ2. So with that in mind, here’s an interesting column from Seattle columnist and writer Joni Balter.
As I started reading the column, I honestly believed Ms. Balter was issuing a warning to city (un)lucky enough to be selected:
The company will effectively wind up planting a mini-Seattle in the middle of another community, so the political and cultural inclinations of its young, STEM-educated workforce, anticipated to reach as many as 50,000 over time, also could dramatically transform the selected city.
It’s the Amazon Effect: endless dog parks, miles of new bicycle lanes, new buses, streetcars, streetcar cost overruns, outdoor recreation stores and gastropubs for vegans. Not to mention a slew of Democratic voters who tend to believe in environmental sustainability and sensible gun control.
…Once Amazon selects a second headquarters, employees (including some Seattle employees who presumably will help set up the new campus) will usher in an unabashed urbanism. They will demand carless transportation options and prompt a big spike in housing costs. Seattle is often ranked as the nation’s fastest-growing city, boasting, if that is the right word, rapidly rising housing and rental prices.
Over time, growth politics become all-consuming, pitting old-timers (you know, those with perhaps five years of residency) against newcomers in battles over density and traffic.
OK, doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me, and as I read I appreciated Ms. Balter’s forthrightness. Imagine my surprise when I read the last paragraph (emphasis mine):
The Amazon search comes at a time of declining confidence in government, Congress, religion and other institutions, said Wisconsin professor O’Guinn. “A public that doesn’t believe in other institutions has to start looking at companies to be part of the moral fabric of the country.”
Amazon officialdom may not want to play that role. But for competitive business reasons, it has to reflect the social and political values of its young workforce. If that’s a culture war, then it’s one worth fighting.
Great—whatever city Amazon selects for its HQ2 will be the front lines of a ‘culture war.’ While I have issues with my hometown of Raleigh, I certainly wouldn’t wish that upon it, though sometimes it seems it’s engaging in a culture war just fine on its own.
It’s probably a moot point anyway–Ms. Balter quotes the so-called “Amazon whisperer” who says the HQ2 “cake is already baked”—-it’s going to the D.C. area, where CEO Jeff Bezos can be in close proximity to the man who recently has “expressed special animus” for Amazon—and that would be President Trump.