Thursday, November 15, 2018

No, losing Amazon HQ2 is not a win for Montgomery County or Maryland

We've all been hearing and reading delusional comments by our inept elected officials regarding Montgomery County's defeat in the national sweepstakes to win the Amazon HQ2. A largely-obsequious press corps is indulging them in their delusion. But at some point, they must remove their rose-colored distortion lenses, and accept the truth: This was a loss, and a damning indictment of our business climate, poor transportation infrastructure, and bumbling economic development "leadership."

And now, as the great Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story."

Reality check: All Amazon benefits accrue to Virginia, and specifically, Arlington County. Aside from Montgomery County residents who end up employed by Amazon, we will be getting only the negative impacts of the HQ2.

Here are the real winners and losers in the Crystal City Amazon victory:


Northern Virginia

Our biggest rival in the regional economic development arena never seems to leave the Winner's Circle. They got Hilton Hotels, Intelsat, Volkswagen, Northrop, Nestle and Gerber in the headquarters relocation wars. Amazon's supposed 25,000 jobs will only be the jewel in the Old Dominion's crown. Virginia gets all the revenue, and all the halo effect. Only a delusional person believes that other tech companies will say, "Amazon is in Crystal City, and we want to be near Amazon, so we're going to locate in...Montgomery County?"

Remember, pre-Amazon, literally no major corporation wanted to be in Montgomery County. We haven't attracted a single major corporate headquarters in two decades. Nothing has changed at all in the post-Amazon era. We have the same high local and state taxes, the same hostile business climate, and a large number of low-information lemming voters just elected another 9 anti-business Democrats to the County Council who will vote exactly the same way as their predecessors. Heckuva job, Brownie!

Virginia's last two governors were frequently caught by reporters laughing and mocking Montgomery County and Maryland's high-tax and anti-business climate, which has been so fruitful for their state. Rest assured that there are many chuckles ahead from Ralph Northam at our expense.


Amazon brilliantly collected reams of confidential data from desperate localities across America in its "reality-show-style" search. It has gleaned tremendous intelligence it can use for years to come. Expect more corporations to conduct similar beauty pageants, now that they've seen how profitable it can be. While New York and Virginia will receive the benefits of victory, Amazon has also extracted highly favorable incentives and cost-savings from each.

JBG Smith

Imagine you bought a junkyard, only to one day learn there was oil and a gold mine under it. That's the delightful position developer JBG Smith finds itself in with its Crystal City properties. An afterthought of vacant office suites amidst a traffic maze no one wants to walk or drive through just became a regional and national destination and landmark.

Robert Dyer

Once again, I was proven correct. I've been saying for years that we need to build a new Potomac River crossing to Dulles Airport. That project is opposed by all of the Councilmembers and Executive just elected last week. Turns out, Amazon wanted - get this - easy airport access, and specifically balked at the idea of a 30-35 minute airport trip from Montgomery County. They're even building a pedestrian bridge to National Airport, for God's sake. They're a logistics company, folks. Had people listened to me in 2010, we could have completed construction of the new crossing to Dulles by the time Amazon was HQ-shopping.

I've also said we need to improve our business climate, and have taxation and regulation schemes that are actually competitive with our rivals in the region. Instead, a majority of voters (who actually knew on Election Day that we had lost the HQ2 contest) elected nine anti-business Councilmembers, who this week are already preparing for yet another tax hike to deal with our...yep, structural budget deficit.

Who knew?

I did.

Montgomery County Cartel

The Montgomery County Cartel, in the smoke-filled back rooms, are quietly toasting to the Amazon defeat. Now all that land that would have gone to high-wage jobs is once again left open for more luxury apartments. With the now full-throated, open retirement of the county from any serious regional economic development competition, the developers, certain unions, and community organizations can continue to get all the money from taxpayers through their puppets on the County Council. Hans Riemer can finally be open about his belief that the future of economic development is farmers markets, 15 and 20 MPH speed limits, and a two-lane Georgia Avenue with maximum room for his developer sugar daddies to build in Montgomery Hills, Aspen Hill and Forest Glen.


Montgomery County

This was Montgomery County's biggest economic development defeat in history. No firms are coming here because Amazon is in Crystal City. Schools and urban centers in Northern Virginia are as good or better than what Amazon employees would find in Montgomery County. Beyond employees who already live here, few will have the desire to deal with the daily torture of commuting to Virginia from Montgomery County.

To top it off, as the rich exit Montgomery while the poor flood in, the victims of Amazon gentrification will cross the river to seek the generous services and public education in Montgomery County, further overcrowding classrooms and busting our already-busted budget.

White Flint/Pike District

Remember when the County Council loudly canceled the Montrose Parkway East with the irresponsible belief that Larry Hogan would pay for it when we got HQ2? Well, we didn't get HQ2, and now we are that much further behind in providing the infrastructure needed for White Flint.

White Flint was touted as the "new Tysons," but has been an utter failure in attracting major employers, much less corporate headquarters. Meanwhile, Tysons already had the jobs; now Tysons is adding residential and even more jobs, and Crystal City is about to become a boomtown.

Montgomery County Council + Taxpayers

The Council just make a shocking confession this week: While foolishly trying to tout their record 2016 tax hikes as a smart decision, they ended up exposing again that they had lied to taxpayers about it. At the time, they described it as an unnecessary tax hike that was employed to make an investment in schools. They called the record tax hike budget an "education budget."

But this week, Council staff said the money was used to balance the budget (because of that pesky - yep - structural deficit I kept warning you about all of this decade). So now we know the money went to the Silver Spring Transit Center debacle, and to balance the budget (rather than cut the Council's outrageous spending). Not education. Wow. It's a good thing the majority of voters like paying taxes - they're going to be paying plenty more, especially with the loss of 25000-50000 Amazon jobs from the bottom line.

Gov. Larry Hogan

Let's face it - Larry Hogan's top priority is Larry Hogan. A one-man party who threw his fellow Republicans under the bus, he'll have a devil of a time attracting any major corporate headquarters to Maryland by cutting tolls on the Bay Bridge. Hogan came up with a winning incentive package for Amazon, but ultimately was powerless to overcome his state's horrifically-high personal and corporate taxes, and hostile business climate. Like the Montgomery County Council, Hogan - who also bizarrely opposes a new Potomac River crossing - needed Amazon desperately. The loss is that much more devastating.


Anonymous said...

I guess it's finally time Robert Dyer was a winner at something. Congrats.

Anonymous said...

What does the Second Crossing have to do with Crystal City?

Anonymous said...

Now that we see what Amazon wanted, we never had a chance. All three HQ’s are located very close to large urban cities. Not a 15 minute Metro ride on a single line. White Flint could never fill that criteria. Even though it’s dense and highly developed, it is just too far from an urban center. It’s also lacked enough existing vacant office space that could be occupied quickly. We now know that Amazon would never have selected a suburban campus so far from an urban core. For that matter, they didn’t want to actually be in the core, just very near it.

Having JBG Smith’s headquarters in downtown Bethesda is a bit of a help, as their corporate taxes will likely grow and be paid in Montgomery County and Maryland.

I still contend that many Amazonian’s will not like living so close to an international airport, and will seek Metro accessible TOD locations like Bethesda to rent and buy. Of course many will choose locations in NoVa, but a 35 minute ride on the Metro is not a big deal for many folks in this area. We also save $8.5 billion dollars that we can use to buy new glass coffee tables ;)

Anonymous said...

"This was Montgomery County's biggest economic development defeat in history."

Also Fairfax County, Loudoun County, the District of Columbia, Dallas, Boston, Atlanta and many more.

Anonymous said...

It's Hogan's fault for not building Amazon an airport in White Flint, damnit!

Anonymous said...

Congressional Plaza used to be an airport. I blame Federal Realty for not rebuilding the airport.


Anonymous said...

"JBG Smith

"Imagine you bought a junkyard, only to one day learn there was oil and a gold mine under it. That's the delightful position developer JBG Smith finds itself in with its Crystal City properties. An afterthought of vacant office suites amidst a traffic maze no one wants to walk or drive through just became a regional and national destination and landmark."

Odd that you don't mention the nice new corporate headquarters JBG Smith are building for themselves right here in Bethesda.

Skippy said...

MoCo and Maryland swung for the fences and struck out spectacularly. Amazon has all of our proprietary planning and economic data and all we have to show for it is an Amazon Prime hat.

Is the Discovery headquarters still available? Silver Spring or Bethesda seemed like better options. Surprised Baltimore didn't make the cut as Maryland's offering.

Anonymous said...

I agree with anonymous 8:16. Bethesda is not next door to National Airport or across the East River from Manhattan, never was and never will be. It's suburban, like it or not.

Anonymous said...

8:16 is right

Rosslyn and Crystal City are essentially part of downtown DC - separated only by the river and right in the heart of the original (square) District of Columbia.

The White Flint area is comparable to the portions of Tysons Corner most distant from the Beltway.

I lived in Crystal City for years in the 1980's and even then it was a fantastically convenient location. It's much better now. Amazon made a great choice.

michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

8:47 the "proprietary planning and economic data" of Montgomery County is most useful as a guide to "what not to do"

Let's face it - Montgomery County is a suburban community supporting downtown DC (including Rosslyn and National Landing) and the Tysons to Dulles corridor.

Anonymous said...

"Let's face it - Larry Hogan's top priority is Larry Hogan. A one-man party who threw his fellow Republicans under the bus"

I guess we won't be seeing any more of that fawning triple-photo of Larry Hogan on SNN.

But it's really odd that someone who told voters to not vote for any of his three Republican running mates for Council At-Large would say this.

Adam Pagnucco said...

"A afterthought of vacant office suites amidst a traffic maze no one wants to walk or drive through"


Anonymous said...

Yes we lost, but so did 236 other cities. At least we made the top 20 so maybe a few other corporatations might take notice. Perhaps ones that like less urban sites. Maybe a big Apple HQ2 donut at the White Flint site...

Anonymous said...

If we've concluded we're mainly a bedroom community to DC and Northern VA, it might be a good idea to provide better transportation solutions to that end. i.e. another Potomac crossing, a working Metro rail and additional capacity on 270. BRT doesn't go to NoVA.

Anonymous said...

FUN FACT: The $6.5 Billion tax break offer from Maryland was higher than Virginia

ANOTHER FUN FACT: Only New Jersey had a larger tax break than the other 18 finalists.

Anonymous said...

Dyer is a Trump wingnut Republican. Common sense moderates like Hogan don't appeal to him. But that's why Hogan received 56% of the vote in blue Maryland, and Dyer won 6%.

As for the idiotic article, Dyer declares Virginia and New York winners for getting HQ2, but losers for paying incentives to Amazon. Which is it? And since Dyer hates Bezos, Amazon, and the Washington Post so so much, you would think he would think of it as a win that they won't be coming to Montgomery County......But alas, Dyer can never pass up an opportunity to denigrate the county council.

P.S. NOBODY wants your stupid bridge. Did you forget that Fairfax County had a huge site right beside Dulles that lost to Arlington? Get over it!

Anonymous said...

I wish the Council would just take the loss on this, admit it and move on with solutions of what we're doing with the White Flint Mall site. I'd hate to be at Thanksgiving dinner at the Lerner household next week with the National's performance and now this.

10:08 AM The idea of another bridge is to take the airport traffic off the Legion bridge. That would help MoCo residents commute to Tysons and Fairfax in general. Essential if we've decided to become primarily a bedroom community.

Anonymous said...

"Instead, a majority of voters (who actually knew on Election Day that we had lost the HQ2 contest) elected nine anti-business Councilmembers, who this week are already preparing for yet another tax hike to deal with our...yep, structural budget deficit."

Maybe you should move somewhere else. Like deep red Alabama or South Carolina. Seems to be more your speed.

I remember Giffords said...

10:25 AM "Go move somewhere else" isn't the solution to improving things here.

Imagine how much home values in Randolph Hills would have spiked if we landed HQ2!

Anonymous said...

You may disagree with Dyer, but he has put forward substantive policy to address our economic woes.

Sadly, George Leventhal's socks got more coverage from the local media than the County At-Large general election. (A legacy media reporter praised George on his colorful socks during a Primary debate.)

Anonymous said...

"I wish the Council would just take the loss on this, admit it"


Anonymous said...

Sadly for Dyer, Leventhal has been appointed to Elrich's transition committee.

Anonymous said...

11:09 AM Maybe a model for Bombas next?

Anonymous said...

Berliner seemed almost gleeful this week that we'd never see another Potomac crossing bridge.
Yet, he believes we'll derive benefits from Amazon locating in Arlington. Doesn't compute!

May we never hear of Berliner again after he steps down.

Anonymous said...

We won Dyer. The evil MoCo machine cannot be stopped. Will never be defeated. We own everyone. We control every outcome. Watch your world burn as we enjoy our ill gotten fortune (and women!!).


Anonymous said...

Powerful piece.

Anonymous said...

Dyer constantly laments about the lack of Fortune 500 companies in Montgomery County, but it's not alone. Boston, Chicago, and New York have all lost a lot of F500s per the article below.

Bottom line large corporations no longer want to be in the Northeast and Midwest, and are moving in drives to l right-to-work states in the South with lower taxes and costs of living. It's a systemic issue and there's not much the county can do about it.

Anonymous said...

The MoCo Machine is celebrating at Russia House this evening! Who else will be joining us?! Ill gotten gains for allllllll!!!!

Anonymous said...

11:56 AM Amazon wanted to be where an educated an skilled workforce existed. Hence why they chose NYC and Northern VA.
In the DC region, Northern VA had the best overall package, included transportation where they've invested heavily in the past decade- MoCo has not. In fact, we've cancelled more transportation projects (i.e. CCT) than we've started.

As someone said, Crystal City and north Arlington (Rosslyn) are basically part of the DC.

Anonymous said...

And the one thing we apparently can do well in Montgomery County,public education, is being threatened by the infill development coming courtesy of our useless County Council and out of control developers. The Westbard development, alone, will initially bring over 500 new units of housing (another 700 or so eventually once EYA completes the rest of the plan). Meanwhile, BCC and Whitman are already terribly overcrowded with no relief in sight, and a main selling point for the new Westbard development would be those schools.

Anonymous said...

The state should invest in improving the University of Maryland system's already strong computer science offerings. NSA would benefit - Virginia is building a VA tech campus in National Landing.

Anonymous said...

The Promoting Extraordinary Innovation in Maryland’s Economy Act, or the PRIME Act is still active for another two years. Amazon may have not liked the White Flint site but another large corporation willing to meet the PRIME Act requirements may decide to take advantage of the Maryland $8.5 billion incentive package. To qualify for the tax credits, a company would have to hire at least 40,000 new workers making annual salaries of at least $60,000 and spend $4.5 billion on its new headquarters. Apple is looking for a second headquarters site that is suburban oriented. I wonder if they will consider the White Flint site? Also Montgomery County is offering an additional incentive package worth around $500 million. That's a $9 billion incentive package still available to a Fortune 100 corporation.

Anonymous said...

#Dyer'sLittleHelper @ 11:23 PM said:

"May we never hear of Berliner again after he steps down."

Elrich just appointed Berliner and Leventhal to his transition committee.

Anonymous said...

Amazon was always going to locate near the Pentagon. This was a beauty contest to get cities to lick Bezos' boots, but the outcome was preordained.

There are mounting concerns about both the subsidies given to the richest man on the planet, and the willingness to give Amazon state-like powers when it comes to regulation etc.

I suspect none of this will age well.

Anonymous said...

Not-So-Anonymous @ 11:04 AM said: "Sadly, George Leventhal's socks got more coverage from the local media than the County At-Large general election. (A legacy media reporter praised George on his colorful socks during a Primary debate.)"

Category: "George Leventhal's Colorful Socks":

December 22, 2017

"Tim" said: "MWTOP's coverage of a recent county executive debate focused on praising Mr. Leventhal's colorful socks."

January 2, 2018

Not-So-Anonymous said: "The old, legacy media is failing us. Remember when WTOP covered the recent county exec debate and the reporter fixated his coverage on Mr. Leventhal's colorful socks."

Anonymous said...

"We have the same high local and state taxes, the same hostile business climate, and a large number of low-information lemming voters just elected another 9 anti-business Democrats to the County Council who will vote exactly the same way as their predecessors"

So how do you explain New York City getting the other half of AMZHQ2?

Anonymous said...

Dyer's title: ""No, losing Amazon HQ2 is not a win for Montgomery County or Maryland"

So who actually said that "losing Amazon HQ2 is a WIN for Montgomery County"?

Anonymous said...

5:53 PM "This was a beauty contest to get cities to lick Bezos' boots"

Looking at Maryland's billion of dollars of giveaways proposed, Larry Hogan was ready to lick more than Bezos' boots

7:45 PM Berliner and Reamer both said this was a win for us. That'd be fine if they were against Amazon coming here, but they weren't. They lost and there's no way to sugarcoat this.

7:07 PM In legacy media, this was the "Leventhal colorful socks" election. Self proclaimed reporters spent more pixels on his socks than the at large general election race.

Anonymous said...

I remember when Robert Dyer used to be Governor Hogan's biggest fanboy.

"Berliner and [Riemer] both said this was a win for us."

[citation needed]

Anonymous said...

Remember how Dyer proclaimed several weeks ago that Republican Attorney General candidate Craig Wolf was within 6 points of Brian Frosh?

2018 General Election Results:

Brian E. Frosh (Democratic) 298,837 78%
Craig Wolf (Republican) 84,309 22%

Seems to me that 78 - 22 = 56 points, not "6 points".

Maybe Dyer accidentally deleted the leading digit?

Anonymous said...

Berliner on MyMCMedia: "We did gain. It's a net plus for our county" to lose Amazon

Anonymous said...

Hey, I found Dyer's last fawning post with that triple-portrait of Larry Hogan.

Dated September 11, 2018.

How long before he takes down all instances of a photo, like a jilted lover tearing up old snapshots?

Anonymous said...

@ 8:55 PM - I can't find any such quote on MyMCMedia. Perhaps you could post a link to it?

Anonymous said...

9:10 pm go to their YouTube page. There's a video with elrich, reamer and Berliner.

Berliner on MyMCMedia: "We did gain. It's a net plus for our county" to lose Amazon

Anonymous said...

Did he actually said "Montgomery County gained by losing Amazon", as you keep insinuating? Or rather, that the entire region will gain from having it located here?

It seems that you are only willing to cite part of what he said, just enough to confirm your biases. Who needs context, anyway?

Anonymous said...

I proposed the idea of building a pedestrian bridge from Bethesda to Reagan National YEARS ago!!!

Anonymous said...

5:23 AM I left an exact quote and generally Berliner was positive about what happened. He said "we did gain. It's a net plus for our county" that Amazon is coming to Arlington.
The interviewer pushed back saying we'd get more traffic gridlock.

Suze said...

Wait - if we get traffic gridlock does that mean people will be moving to Montgomery County? So we gain from having people move here, buy homes, and pay taxes? Or do we lose because there's traffic in Crystal City, 30 minutes away?

Anonymous said...

Bethesda is easily within a comfortable commute-shed using the Metro, especially when the south entrance of the Bethesda Metro station and the new east entrance to the Crystal City Metro are both open. Folks that live in the Elm and work at AmazonHQ2 in a building near either Crystal City, Pentagon City or Potomac Yard Metro station could commute to work without walking outdoors. A 30 story high apartment might be more attractive than one in NoVa overlooking the airport, especially if their spouse or family Montgomery County.

I would not discount the very attractive Bethesda area as a great option for Amazonian's who don't mind a 35 minute commute and don't like the constant noise and pollution of air traffic only 1000 feet from their home. Western portions of NoVa and Alexandria will also see lots folks that choose not to live where the work.

Don't fear the METRO. It offers great options to get around without the expense and hassle of driving on our congested roads. Yes, the Metro has its problems, but with 25,000 to 37,850 new Amazonian's in town, and many more supporting and spin off positions, Metro will have enhanced ridership and more available funding for improvements in reliability, safety, increased service hours and a newer fleet of mostly 7000 and 8000 series cars with 8 car trains to reduce crowding. Up to 40% of Marriott employees are anticipated to use the Metro as well.

Anonymous said...

I just read that the AVERAGE commute time in America is 26.4 minutes. So a 35 minute commute time, without the need to own, drive or park a car is a very realistic option for many folks. The average cost to own, maintain, fuel, insure and park a car in America is now over $9,500 per year. For a couple with two cars, that’s $19,000 per year that can be spent on many things, even after their Metro, Bikeshare, Scooteshare, Uber, and Zipcar bills, I read somewhere that in Seattle, Amazon reimburses their employees the full cost for mass transit, This will further enhance transit use and provide built-in funding for Metro, not unlike Federal transit reimbursement.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this mentioned, but Crystal City is one of the areas served by the #1 public high school in the country - Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. That surely was a factor for Amazon. Blair is respectably, but it's not in the same league as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology

Anonymous said...

10:48 AM Schools open today or closed due to snow?

Robert Dyer said...

9:30/9:49: The question is, unless you lived in Bethesda already, why in the world would you move here to work in "National Landing?" Just want to pay more taxes? It might have been a political statement a few years ago, but Northern Virginia is now far to the left politically, as are all of their elected officials. So even a liberal feels right at home in Virginia, where they have urban and suburban entertainment centers as good or better than here, ranging from Mosaic to Tysons to Clarendon. All the same chains, too.

I've yet to hear any sensible argument for why Amazon employees who don't already live here would choose Montgomery County and a long commute back and forth. Again, it's a loss for us all the way around.

Anonymous said...


I really don’t understand why you do not seem to appreciate why anyone who works at the National Landing would choose to live in Bethesda by choice. Yes other communities offer other options, but Bethesda is still a great place to live. Easy access to DC and NoVa via the Metro. A highly walkable downtown, surrounded by great neighborhoods with wonderful houses. 200 restaurants and 500 retail shops, all connected by a free circulator. A great library downtown. Great (if a bit crowded) schools. A downtown cinema, and multiple theatres. Tons of planned community events. A great downtown farmers market. Soon we will have seven hotels. A dynamic new sector plan that is creating spectacular new housing, creative workspaces, enhanced restaurants and retail, many new parks and canopy trees all around. Easy access to the expanding CCT, with easy bike access to Georgetown, Silver Spring and the Rock Creek, and a new loop of protected bike lanes downtown. Soon we will have a second Metro entrance and a brand new light rail line and BRT on the Pike for even more transit options.

Crystal City is a very tired and congested place, with jumbo jets landing and taking off overhead about one per minute. Yes it is also highly transit focused, but currently a rather unpleasant place to live.

Over time it will improve, but for now I can’t imagine many newcomers will be very impressed. I think most new HQ2 folks will choose to live somewhere with a bit less noise, and after their interview, will hop on the Metro to see what they can find. In 10 or 15 minutes, they will find many nice options like Alexandria, Ballston, Clarendon, Reston Town Center, but if they stretch that a bit, they will have many more choices. Many might choose the DC option and rent a flat in Southwest Waterfront or Wharf, or a cool urban neighborhood like the Eastern Market or U Street. But I contend that a very simple 35 minute commute to Bethesda is very doable for many folks, and would offer them a great place to live and raise a family. More options for single family houses if the choose, many very close to the Metro.

Perhaps their spouse might get a job in the hospitality, medical, or development industries and get a job at Marriott, Host Hotels, NIH, or one of the many developers in the Bethesda area like JBG Smith. BF Saul, Carr Properties, Stonebridge Carras, Clark Companies or Federal Realty in Rockville.

Of course the impact of HQ2 will be much more in NoVa and DC, but Montgomery County will still get many benefits without having to fork over $8,500,000,000.00. The DMV works as a connected whole and is not as insular as you portray. We all share the burden of improving the region, and all share in the benefits of increased density and pride like this selection by Amazon. Of course, the key to all of this is to continue to improve and enhance transit options so we are all truly connected by more than the linear parking lot known as the Beltway.

Anonymous said...

Dyer, do you think that every single one of the employees of AMZHQ2 will live in Arlington County?

Do you think that commuting from the Virginia counties to the west, via the extremely congested I-66, with tolls approaching $50 for solo drivers inside the Beltway, is more desirable than commuting from Bethesda?

Do you believe that commuting from the Virginia counties to the south, via the unbelievably congested I-395/95 is more desirable than commuting from Bethesda?

Anonymous said...

@6:30 There are no jumbo jets landing at Reagan Airport -- the runway is too short to handle them taking off again (with passengers).

Anonymous said...

Most people wouldn't recommend someone moving to work in Virginia live in Maryland. Traffic is just that bad.

There's nothing unique in Bethesda that you won't get in Arlington or Alexandria.

Some folks will live in DC I'm sure, but is more direct.

Anonymous said...

Wow, we're really seeing a bad MoCo government news dump post election.