Early in September, Amazon announced that it’s searching for a city to build its second headquarters in. They’re looking at building a new HQ where they’ll be able to employ up to 50,000 people with high-paying jobs. Currently, Amazon has over 40,000 employees in Seattle.
If you live in Seattle, then you probably know that Seattle residents have some seriously STRONG opinions about Amazon. A lot of people are downright angry about Amazon’s huge presence in our city, and everything that’s followed. Extreme housing shortages, soaring rent and property values, and a significant increase to the cost of living here have all left many people downright hostile toward Amazon. South Lake Union and other Seattle neighborhoods have been transformed, and for many, it’s not the Seattle of the past them remember, recognize, and frankly, pine for.
And we’re sympathetic to the people whose lives had to change as a result of tech companies moving in and transforming the city. People have to move farther out of the city and commute farther to work. Seattle should be building out communities and adding more low-income housing. (While rezones to neighborhoods like Central District and Beacon Hill and low-income housing are steps in the right direction, we just need more of it—and faster.)
We happen to think that Amazon has been a net positive for the city of Seattle, and here are a few reasons why.
1. Growth is the natural progression of a city, and Amazon has been a huge driver of this in Seattle.
The basis of a city is its economy and what drives it… and when you fight against that, you’re fighting against growth and collective upward movement. If we didn’t have Amazon and other companies coming into Seattle, people would be complaining about not having enough jobs. Just this past year, Washington’s unemployment rate reached the lowest it’s been since record-keeping started. Seattle has a $15 minimum wage (the highest in the country), and Seattle’s median household income has increased more than any other U.S. in the last year (it went up $10k in one year alone!).
Why are these jobs here in Seattle? We think Amazon has a whole lot to do with it. Apple, Google, Facebook—these companies (there are too many to name) are all here because of Amazon. Startups, jobs, and everything that everyone is so excited about in the tech industry has contributed to Seattle’s healthy market dynamics. Is it perfect? No. But also keep in mind: On the bright side, Seattle hasn’t turned into Wall Street where you have some seriously unfathomable income disparity.
And yes, Seattle’s infrastructure has had to change to accommodate Amazon’s incredible growth. But with that comes infrastructure that makes our city a better place to live in over the long term.
2. We’d argue that Seattle really wasn’t that great before.
To everyone who complains that the city has changed too much, we’d like to challenge you on that. We were here in pre-Amazon Seattle, and we just don’t think Seattle was that great before! The restaurant scene was seriously lacking, there wasn’t great shopping, and the economy was so reliant on companies like Boeing (they weren’t doing us any favors) and Microsoft (with their many layoffs over the years).
3. Do you have a job in Seattle *because* of Amazon?
Not only did Amazon create tens of thousands of jobs for people they directly employed, but think of the ripple effect. Do you have a job at a company that was started here in the last 5-10 years? Did Amazon have an indirect influence on that?
4. Tech companies have brought in people from all over the world.
Amazon is bringing in money from all over the world, and bringing it here to Seattle. If we’re going to have a company that’s doing that, well, we’d sure like for it to be in our state. Jeff Bezos has imported wealth into our city, and the announcement of a second headquarters has us wondering if we’ve squandered a huge opportunity.
Things in Seattle are different. Our “little” city has evolved, and tech companies like Amazon have helped put Seattle on the map… And people are pissed. Because our growth has happened so quickly, the response to it all has also been quick (and loud). Many people who remember Seattle “from before” are still here, and people who hate Amazon are vocal about it. It can feel like no one likes Amazon at times… but the people who think Amazon has been good for our city are often silent when it comes up.
So we ask: If you are opposed to Amazon in our city, what exactly do you want? (We don’t mean for that to come off in a snarky way.) Really—what is our alternative? What do you envision for Seattle?
Something we have to remember is that we’re all in this together. (Sounds cheesey but it’s true.) We all need to VOTE for the things that will make our city better—we need to vote to improve infrastructure, and we need to ensure housing remains plentiful and affordable. Many people are so hung up on whether Seattle’s better or not because of Amazon, instead of moving forward and taking a real look at what will ensure our city grows and prospers.