Two high-profile New Yorkers offered clashing perspectives this week on Amazon’s decision to pull out of a planned 25,000-person office in Queens.
On one side is J.P. Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who said critics of the “Amazon HQ2” deal clearly made a mistake alienating the Seattle tech giant. On the other end of the spectrum is Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive firebrand who hasn’t been shy about her skepticism of HQ2.
The background: Last fall, Amazon announced it would split its ballyhooed HQ2 between New York City and the Washington, D.C., region. Faced with vocal opposition in New York, Amazon abruptly pulled out of the deal in a highly polarizing move. Critics of the plan were particularly concerned with up to $3 billion in tax breaks Amazon could have received while supporters noted that most of those funds would only be granted after high-paying jobs were created.
What they’re saying: Asked by CNBC if New Yorkers made the wrong call by pushing back on the deal, Dimon said, “Of course they made a mistake.” He noted that the 25,000 jobs Amazon promised would result in “another 75,000 outside of that,” such as “people who prepare meals and clean floors, to engineers, to marketing people, to lawyers, to accountants to service that whole ecosystem.” Dimon’s company, J.P. Morgan, has partnered with Amazon on a new healthcare venture called Haven.
Ocasio-Cortez stressed that she was simply asking for more accountability in the HQ2 deal, during a community meeting in Astoria Queens this week. “I was concerned about what we were giving away and the fact that there was no penalty. If they didn’t deliver those jobs, there was no penalty for it,” she said. Ocasio-Cortez criticized Amazon for being unwilling to engage with the community. “When they got a seat at the table, all Amazon said was ‘we’re not going to budge one bit.’ We shouldn’t be inviting bullies into our neighborhood,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Why it matters: Big Tech has become a political lightning rod and the debate will only intensify as we head into the 2020 election cycle. Amazon’s dramatic HQ2 search highlighted a growing divide between progressives like Ocasio-Cortez who are keen to reign in the industry and business leaders like Dimon who worry about stifling economic growth.