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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.