Governor tells Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference he’s discussing Amazon’s HQ2 plans with company leaders

Geek Wire has several stories drawn from presentations to the Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference we want to bring to your attention. Amazon’s decision to establish a second and “equal” corporate headquarters outside Seattle naturally emerged as a topic of discussion.

Gov. Jay Inslee, Geek Wire reports, told the conference he was discussing the company’s plans with corporate officials.

Speaking at the Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference in Seattle Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he has spoken with Amazon leaders wants to better understand the company’s needs for its second headquarters and the 50,000 jobs that will eventually come with it. The state is also learning more about which cities in Washington are interested and make sense as a landing spot.

“There are important discussions going on now about the future of Amazon,” Inslee said. “We are excited about this amazing company, and it is an amazing company because it understands fundamentally that innovation is the stock and trade of our state, so I am looking forward to those discussions.”

There’s more in the story about efforts to land HQ2 in Washington, as we wrote yesterday. The Seattle Times has more on Tacoma’s bid.

For those who fear Amazon’s decision may presage a withdrawal of jobs and investment from metropolitan Seattle, Amazon board member Tom Alberg had reassuring words, reports Geek Wire. 

“Amazon will keep growing in Seattle,” said Madrona Venture Group’s Tom Alberg, the Seattle venture capitalist who has served on the company’s board since its early days as a small online book seller.  “It’s not going to stop in the short term, or medium term at least, and look at all these other companies that are growing.”

Alberg made the comments on Tuesday afternoon at the Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference, a meeting in Seattle this week that’s trying to forge stronger bonds between tech and civic leaders in Seattle and Vancouver, B.C.

Again, we recommend reading the full article. Another Geek Wire story on the panel noted that tech leaders had different views on what the HQ2 announcement implies.

While [Heather Redman, managing partner at Flying Fish Partners and incoming chair of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce] agrees that opening a big office elsewhere makes sense for accessing a new pool of talent, Redman sees the co-headquarters idea as inefficient.

She posited that Amazon’s assertion that the new $5 billion campus will be a “full equal” to the company’s existing operations in its longtime home of Seattle indicates that it is not happy with the business climate here in its hometown.

That goes beyond government policy and rhetoric and extends to those in the community who choose to blame Amazon for all of Seattle’s woes.

Similar concerns were raised in a Seattle Times op-ed by Madrona Venture Group managing director Matt McIlwain. After recounting Amazon’s investments in the city, the 40,000 direct jobs and 50,000 indirect jobs, and more, McIlwain writes,

Given all of this, one might expect our local elected leaders to seek to partner with Amazon and other job creators. Instead, many Seattle City Council members have been openly hostile, pushing policies that match their anti-business rhetoric. No wonder in its request for proposal Amazon specifically states it hopes to have “elected officials eager and willing to work with the company.”

An example of this unproductive relationship is the passage of an income tax by the Seattle City Council. Proponents chanted “Tax the Rich” around town during the debate leading up to the vote. The tax clearly targets higher wage earners at companies like Amazon, but will also capture small businesses and families in its net. The clear message: We don’t like you, we don’t want you here, and we are willing to reduce opportunities for all citizens by passing this punitive tax.

The Seattle Times notes that McIlwain “helped found the Opportunity for All Coalition, whose mission is to support a legal challenge to the recently passed Seattle income tax.”

The op-ed continues,

…our government, civic and business leaders need to create a strategy that meets the needs of our whole community while prioritizing how best to invest the ever-increasing tax revenues that this growth generates. But read between the lines of Amazon’s messaging this week: “We are looking for a location with strong local and regional talent — particularly in software development and related fields — as well as a stable and business-friendly environment to continue hiring and innovating on behalf of our customers.” It is clear that a constant barrage of negative attacks on business will not lead to a winning economic development strategy.

Can’t disagree with that.