When Amazon announced that they would be opening up a second center of operations they basically started a contest between urban centers around the country competing for a chance at hosting them. And who wouldn’t want to get in on that action, right? We’re talking about a massive amount of jobs and potential infrastructure investment which could take an economically troubled region and turn it into a thriving success story. Everyone was getting in on the act, with newspaper editorial boards in places from Boston to Phoenix publishing pitches as to why they should be the lucky ones.
But it’s not just their new headquarters which is up for grabs. Amazon is expanding in a variety of ways, including setting up new regional distribution centers. While not as big as a major HQ, these can still provide a lot of jobs and related traffic for a community. One of the hopeful urban centers competing for such a hub is Baltimore, Maryland. There was never any question that Charm City is in desperate need of revitalization, but just hoping clearly isn’t enough. Now, with the decision looming, the city is considering putting a significant chunk of money on the table in an attempt to lure Amazon into their corner. (Baltimore Sun)
The Baltimore County Council is scheduled to vote Monday on a resolution to support a $2.2 million incentive package for Amazon to build a distribution center in Sparrows Point.
Neither Amazon nor Tradepoint Atlantic, where the distribution center would be built, have commented on the e-commerce giant’s plans or the incentives.
But Baltimore County officials have said Amazon is in negotiations to build an 855,000-square-foot distribution center with 1,500 employees at Tradepoint, an industrial and transportation hub located on the site of a former steel mill in Sparrows Point.
The state Department of Commerce is offering a $2 million conditional loan to Amazon, and the County Council’s support is a requirement for the loan.
Sparrows Point is to the southeast of central Baltimore, but doubtless the traffic flow, housing needs, shopping and entertainment options for employees, along with all the other basic aspects of life would spill over into the city. And there’s no doubt that Baltimore could use it.
But prior to leaping into any such deal, shouldn’t Amazon be considering the current state of affairs in the region before they begin relocating management teams and their families or hiring a new workforce? Baltimore remains on track to set records in terms of a murder rate that makes living in Fallujah look like a relatively safe proposition. The gang population there controls more turf than the police. And not all of that is the fault of some general societal decay. The city government has fed into the Ferguson Effect there and the municipal police are frequently at war with City Hall every bit as much as they are the gangs.
Amazon could do a lot for the greater Baltimore area to be sure, but they should be getting something in return. Shouldn’t they establish their hub in a place where there’s at least the normal expectation that their workers will be able to make the commute to and from work without being robbed or killed? If they’re going to be building a massive facility housing valuable goods, don’t they have a right to expect that the city won’t allow their warehouses to be looted and/or burned to the ground the next time the cops wind up having to shoot a gang member?
If Baltimore is really so flush with cash all of a sudden that they can lay out millions to essentially bribe Amazon to move in, perhaps the better move on the retail giant’s part would be to offer a different deal. Ask the city if they’ll put that money towards law enforcement, hiring new cops, cleaning out the gangs once and for all and restoring some normal sense of order. Before offering Baltimore a chance at a new infusion of prosperity, it seems reasonable to demand that the city’s leaders demonstrate that they’re actually ready to receive such a boon and protect everyone taking part in it.
Or, Amazon could just bite on the deal and take their chances, I suppose. There’s always arson insurance.