Amazon will move thousands of jobs from Seattle to nearby Bellevue, Washington over the next four years. The news was announced via an email to employees this week. Not surprisingly it was quickly picked up by the local tech news site GeekWire, which received confirmation of the announcement from Amazon.
Amazon plans to move its worldwide operations team to its new buildings in Bellevue, which is a carefully planned and well-functioning suburban city. Expedia and T-Mobile are headquartered there, and Microsoft, headquartered in nearby Redmond, has a hefty presence. Now, Bellevue will also house Amazon's worldwide operations team--the people who oversee all of Amazon's logistics. They are responsible for managing the company's 175 fulfillment centers and the quarter of a million people who work in them, its Delivery Service Partners initiative, its fleet of trucks, and its fleet of airplanes. If the company ever makes good on its promise to someday deliver packages by drone, this team will oversee those too. It's considered a key group within Amazon, and some observers believe that in time it could employ about 25,000 people--as many people as the company's planned second headquarters in Northern Virginia.
The move makes a lot of sense from Amazon's point of view. Bellevue is nearby, someplace where the company can still draw on Seattle tech talent (and maybe poach some more from its new neighbor Microsoft). But Bellevue is not as badly congested with traffic as Seattle, and its leadership is very business-friendly.
In fact, Bellevue's leadership is ecstatic. After GeekWire broke the story, mayor John Chelminiak issued a statement that ended, "Welcome home, Amazon!" This is a reference to the fact that Amazon got its start in the garage of a Bellevue home. But not everyone else is pleased. Here are two cities where are a lot of people may be ticked off by Amazon's announcement:
Seattle mayor Jenny Durkan says she's fine with the idea that some Amazon jobs currently in Seattle will move to Bellevue. "The more jobs we have in the region and the more it's diversified, the better it is for all of us," she told a local TV station. Seattle has a severe shortage of affordable housing and an increasingly bad traffic problem and moving some employees to Bellevue could help ease both problems a bit while keeping the economic benefit in the same region if not the same city.
But others say the company isn't true to its word. Last year, Seattle City Council voted in a "head tax" that would have charged Amazon and other large employers in the city $275 per year per employee, with the funds used to alleviate homelessness. Amazon was vocal in its objections--and visual. The company actually halted construction on a partially built building in Rainier Square in response. The City Council caved and repealed the tax.
Even so, having gotten what it wanted, Amazon decided it didn't need its new building after all and it's put that office space on the rental market instead. That left some of Seattle's leaders feeling duped. "We cannot be in this reactionary position to constantly respond to whether or not Amazon is going to hold true to its threat or frankly, in our case, stay true to its promises," City Council member Teresa Mosqueda told GeekWire.
2. Crystal City, Virginia
You likely remember the highly publicized beauty contest Amazon ran last year for its second headquarters, nicknamed "HQ2." Cities outbid each other in pursuit of HQ2, and after many months, Amazon announced a winner--sort of. The company surprised everyone by saying it would split the new headquarters in two, with half going to Crystal City in Northern Virginia and half to Queens in New York City. Facing severe skepticism from community leaders in Queens--exactly the sort of ill feeling it was facing in Seattle--the company scrapped its New York City plans. It would still move half of HQ2 to Virginia, and spread the remaining jobs among its existing offices.
With this move, some are now calling Bellevue the "Real HQ2." Ironically, Bellevue did make a bid for HQ2 but it didn't even make the list of 20 finalists that Amazon published part way through the contest. Amazon hasn't said how many jobs are moving to Bellevue but some observers believe the number could rival the 25,000 jobs promised to Northern Virginia. Inside sources told GeekWire that this move has been planned for more than a year, way before Amazon launched its high-profile search for a second headquarters. That HQ2 is looking less special all the time.