Opinion

Amazon HQ2 would compromise inclusivity

Amazon’s second headquarters would negatively impact Philly’s long-time residents.

Shopping is now easier than ever.  With the click of a button, you can have toiletries, groceries, clothes and almost any item at your door in two days. Amazon has become one of the most popular ways to do that.

Amazon, the multi-billion dollar company that has helped make online shopping popular, has grown so much in the last two decades that it is looking to build a second headquarters.

More than 200 cities and regions have submitted proposals for Amazon to build headquarters in their cities, and Philadelphia is one of them.

Citizens of Seattle, the home of Amazon’s first headquarters, have been warning other cities to petition for Amazon with caution, due to the negative impacts it’s had on their city, like sky-high real estate prices, a housing shortage and a less diverse community. We should heed their concerns.

“Before Amazon disrupted books, music, television, furniture — everything — it disrupted Seattle,” Timothy Egan, a Seattle resident and an op-ed contributing writer, wrote for The New York Times.

Amazon has 40,000 employees in Seattle, and has indirectly caused 50,000 jobs to open at other companies, Egan wrote. But these jobs were disproportionately given to middle-class, white men. Amazon’s workforce is currently 61 percent male and 48 percent white. This likely hurt Seattle’s diversity and heightened the wage gap between men and women, as a lack of female employees doesn’t allow the same opportunity for increased wages.

“The changes that have happened have created Seattle a less livable place for categories of people,” said Robby Stern, the president of Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action in Seattle.

Philadelphia is known for being an inclusive, progressive city. Putting our well-respected reputation at risk by hosting Amazon’s HQ2 is reason enough to urge against the construction.

Additionally, any growing business inevitably brings new consumers, some of whom are looking for permanent residency. According to Politico, the growth and success of the Amazon-induced technology industry has increased housing costs by 69 percent since 2012 in Seattle.

“There will be more demand, more housing and as a result, more is being built to accommodate it,” said economics professor Simon Hakim.

But an increased interest in living in Philadelphia poses the risk of a higher rate of gentrification, as the expansion of homes will intrude on the neighborhoods of long-time residents.

SASHA LASAKOW / THE TEMPLE NEWS

At first, Amazon received criticism from Seattle residents for being disengaged with the city. Critics claimed Amazon was solely interested in corporate matters.

It wasn’t until after Amazon was criticized that it started engaging with the community, like supporting some Seattle nonprofits.

“If Amazon wants to be a good corporate citizen and a good neighbor, yes, they’re going to support the community in which they’re doing business,” said public relations professor Gregg Feistman.

It’s not unreasonable to expect a major corporation like Amazon to want to better its community. Philadelphia residents should not have to wait and ask for Amazon to be a good neighbor, but the company’s lack of immediate involvement in Seattle makes me think we might have to.

A requirement of HQ2’s future host city is at least 8 million square feet available to be used for expansion. Hakim said we have this space, but it is taken up by older buildings that contribute to Philadelphia’s historic culture.

The risk of losing any cultural or historic sites in the city make the idea of hosting Amazon’s HQ2 unreasonable.

Hakim said bringing Amazon to Philadelphia will lead to more success for the city, suggesting Amazon will make a name for Philadelphia and help us grow.

But Philadelphia is already considered a major city for opportunity and experience. It attracts millions of visitors each year. Without Amazon’s help, we’ve already created a name of our own.

Philadelphia is a historic city with hundreds of local restaurants, museums and plenty of events that may see more success after Amazon attracts new tourists and employees to the area. However, it may inhibit local residents from enjoying the entertainment they’ve always had.

“We’ll have more people with higher income, we’ll have more restaurants and more demand for [entertainment],” Hakim said.

According to Politico, the economic benefits Seattle has seen from the growth and expansion of Amazon are not a guarantee for the next host of the company, as it’s arbitrary to expect an exact repeat of events.

The threats that Amazon HQ2 poses to our city’s identity greatly outweigh the economic benefits that may occur from another corporate expansion. It’s time to reconsider hosting HQ2.

Monica Mellon

can be reached at monica.mellon@temple.edu
Or you can follow Monica on Twitter @monica_mellon
Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

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