Amazon Town

CEG Amazon Rensselaer cropped

One of the renderings from the Capital Region's Amazon HQ2 bid.

You might recall that episode back in October when the Capital Region joined the mad rush to be colonized by Amazon -- there was pitching, there was laughing, and Albany experienced one of its regular cycles of self hatred. (Here are the 20 metros that made the cut as finalists.)

Well, now the Capital Region's full bid is out thanks to Jon Campbell and the crew at the USA Today Network. They FOILed the bids for the Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Albany metros from Empire State Development and posted them online. Here's the Capital Region bid.

On initial scan, it's pretty much what you'd expect from the summary released last year. But there were a few things that caught our eye...

Amazon Town

The Capital Region's bid -- prepared by the Center for Economic Growth -- centered on the idea of building an extensive Amazon campus that spanned downtown Albany and the city of Rensselaer's waterfront. But it also included alternate sites -- for an "Amazon Town" -- at the Harriman State Office Campus in Albany and the Luther Forest Campus in Saratoga County (where GlobalFoundries is located).

Amazon Town Harriman Campus proposal

From the Harriman campus pitch section:

• 27.5 acres available now at the 'Harriman Campus' directly next to the University at Albany. Future phases will involve redevelopment of the Western Ave portion of the site, incorporating and preserving the current-state workforce and SUNY to create a unique Amazon Town.
• This site has seen $87M in government-funded upgrades, with $152M in additional projects planned or underway. UAlbany is redeveloping the northwestern portion as part of its new Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurism Complex. This site is also 15 minutes drive from the airport.
• We would work with you to develop a pathway to site control.

One of the things that's interesting about it, to us, is that it maybe provides some insight into how the state sees the future of the Harriman campus -- mainly as a place for commercial rather than residential development. (That was one of themes when the state tried to sell a chunk of the Harriman Campus two years ago.)

Tax breaks

Over at the Democrat & Chronicle, Jon Campbell highlights the size of the tax break packages that the Rochester and Buffalo bids offered -- worth an estimated $700 million and $500 million respectively. Those are... large.

It's notable that the Capital Region bid sticks to talking about the tax breaks conceptually in a joint letter from Capitalize Albany and the Rensselaer County IDA (pdf p. 32) and doesn't quote a number. The way we read it, the Amazon HQ2 would be up for the same sort of package that any large project would probably get -- a payment in lieu of taxes arrangement with breaks on sales tax and mortgage recording tax. (Though there's also a mention of an ongoing sales tax break for software.) Even so, the total package would no doubt be large because of the scale of the project.

The thing that really caught our eye, though, was a mention of a "personal income tax reduction for Amazon employees," as well as a payroll tax abatement (pdf p. 14).

That's a totally different kind of sweetener. And it's probably one that would have left a bad aftertaste for a lot of people. A large percentage of Amazon's employees at the new HQ would almost certainly have incomes skewing toward the upper end, so offering them what's essentially a tax cut -- on top of the breaks the company would already be getting -- is rather saccharine.

Also: The cost of living here compared to say, Seattle, is much lower. If Amazon paid people roughly the same (or even a bit less), they'd be making more just on the savings in housing costs.

Amazon Albany river span

Amazon High School

The Capital Region bid highlights the educated, skilled workforce here, along with the various colleges and universities.

Also: "We will ensure that Amazon can shape local school and university curricula to meet your future workforce needs - starting with the University at Albany Engineering program and the potential for Amazon High School!" (pdf p. 9)

There's not really anything in the bid presentation about that, but having a high school connected to -- working for? -- a major corporation would raise some significant questions.


+ The bid highlights CDTA's recognition last year a the best mid-size transportation system in North America. It also promises "further expansion" of CDTA's system to go along with the new HQ and a new new dedicated Amazon shuttle service.

+ You guessed: gondola service for the Amazon Promenade site in downtown Albany and Rensselaer.


On the positive side of this news, our labor force will not have to work for such a horrible employer, we have enough of Wal Mart sweatshops for that purpose. Good news, IMO!

Can't wait to go to Amazon High. First period is Forklift followed by Shelving and Inventory Codes. Man oh man, am I going to be set with this diploma! A real feather in the cap of New York State education!

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