Northern Virginia Is Keeping Amazon’s 25,000 Jobs and It Wants You to Know It
WASHINGTON — When Amazon canceled its plans to build an expansive corporate campus in New York City this week, officials more than 200 miles away in Northern Virginia decided to make a statement.
Their region had its act together, they had been far more prepared and they were free of drama.
That message came from those in the area that has branded itself National Landing, an amalgamation of Arlington and Alexandria neighborhoods that was the other winner in Amazon’s sweepstakes last year to choose sites for massive new campuses.
But after landing Amazon, National Landing faded from the spotlight as attention focused on New York City. In New York, lawmakers, progressive activists and union leaders began contending that Amazon, one of the world’s biggest tech companies, did not deserve nearly $3 billion in government incentives to open a campus there.
The politicking grew heated. Then came Amazon’s very public breakup with New York on Thursday.
“A number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward,” Amazon said about New York in a statement.
In Northern Virginia, officials wasted little time. Hours after Amazon announced its pullout from New York City, Christian Dorsey, the chairman of the Arlington County Board, held a call with reporters.
Mr. Dorsey said he couldn’t speak directly to New York’s possible fumblings. “I can’t speculate what went wrong, and I don’t really care to think about it much,” he said.
But he discussed how his area had done a better job of planning for Amazon, convincing the company to come and then rolling out an infrastructure and development plan to make its arrival possible.
“It highlighted a particular community dynamic in a region that has its act together,” Mr. Dorsey said. He added that Amazon hasn’t changed its plans to bring 25,000 jobs to National Landing by 2030, with the potential to increase that to 38,000 employees later.
Monica Backmon, the executive director of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, was even more direct.
“Oh yes, we are pleased,” she said. “It speaks to certainty that we know what are doing and put a lot of planning and effort early on into it.”
From the beginning, Virginia officials said, their preparations for winning a company like Amazon differed sharply from those of other cities that applied. Residents and others were generally welcoming of the tech behemoth, in contrast to the steady drumbeat of protests in New York.
For years, the region had planned and made improvements to roads, subways, trains, and bike lanes to make room for a major corporation like Amazon, said Ms. Backmon.
A bipartisan state board of legislative leaders that reviews major incentive deals had many hours of discussions on Amazon before an agreement was reached for the new campus , said Stephen Moret, who runs the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.
“The fact that that group exists and was so heavily engaged periodically throughout the 14 months was a major contributor for how well things have rolled out at the state level,” Mr. Moret said in a recent interview. He said Arlington and Alexandria officials were briefed about Amazon in closed sessions multiple times as well.
Late last month, the Virginia Legislature overwhelmingly passed a $750 million incentive package for Amazon, which was signed into law by the governor. It provides Amazon with $550 million in grants for the first 25,000 jobs it creates, and $200 million more for creating 12,850 additional jobs in subsequent years.
Critics of Amazon and its expansion strategy celebrated the company’s withdrawal from New York as a victory and said they were emboldened to turn their sights on Northern Virginia.
“Do not come to our cities expecting to ignore the democratic process and hoard the resources that our communities desperately need,” Local Progress, an organization of local officials, said in a statement.
Northern Virginia officials said they recognized that there could be similar protests in their area. But they said their relationship with Amazon was strong.
“They have been a completely honest broker,” said Mr. Dorsey of the Arlington County Board. “We feel good about their relations thus far.”
Amazon did not immediately return a call for comment.