Although Wake County’s $277 million Amazon bid is the largest it ever offered, county commissioners say it would have gone to any company making a similar investment, and did not exceed the county’s tiered incentive structure.
“I believe what we had offered was nothing more than our basic policy of what we would offer anyone for that size investment,” says Commissioner Erv Portman, who lost his reelection bid in the Democratic primary this spring and will leave office next month. “Obviously, it’s a huge investment, so they are big offers.”
Taken alone, Wake County’s bid to lure Amazon to the Triangle paled in comparison to incentives offered by winning applicants New York and Virginia, although that’s not an entirely apt comparison. It’s still unclear what incentives the state and other counties involved would have given the company.
While Raleigh made the top twenty cities in Amazon’s highly-publicized search for a second headquarters, earlier this week the tech giant announced HQ2 would be split between Queens, New York, and Arlington, Virginia. New York offered the company $1.5 billion in incentives, while Virginia offered $573 million bid.
Wake County’s incentive would have come in the form of tax rebates upon completion of the project over a fifteen-year span, newly released public records show.
Commissioner John Burns—who will also leave office next month—says the incentive package would have applied to any business investment of that size. Though Amazon ended up splitting HQ2 between two cities, it had originally pitched the headquarters as a $6 billion investment that would have created fifty thousand high-paying jobs.
The county was unwilling to offer more than its normal top-tier incentive, Portman says.
“We are only interested in companies that are going to come here that really want to be good citizens and participate and grow, not those that want to be bought to come here,” Portman says. “You saw that in our offer being so much less than what others had offered.”
Amazon’s pass on Wake County was “all in all, not a terrible loss for us,” Portman says, adding the county is already dealing with traffic congestion and other issues stemming from population growth. The tech behemoth’s presence would have only “exacerbated” those issues.
“I do feel a little sigh of relief that we were not taken up on that,” Portman says. “I think that we need to recognize we’re a very desirable part of the country, and we’ve got to be careful not offer people excessive incentives.”
For Burns, “fifty thousand jobs is fifty thousand job.” While he would have liked to see Amazon choose Wake County, he also wonders if the company got what it was seeking from North Carolina and other competing cities in its search.
“It was a little unseemly that they had all these towns bidding against each other,” Burns says.”Amazon ended up getting a whole lot of interesting data on a whole lot of places. It was very well played by Amazon.”