State Grapples with Whether What’s Good for Amazon is Good for Georgia

Staff label and package items in the on-site dispatch hall inside one of Britain's largest Amazon warehouses in Dunfermline, Fife, on Nov. 13, 2017. (Jane Barlow/PA Wire)

Jeff Graham, director of Georgia Equality, uses the prospect of losing Amazon’s new headquarters as one way to fight against a religious freedom bill in the state’s legislature.

Graham said Amazon, which said it wanted a diverse population for the site of its second headquarters, would balk at Georgia if the state had anything but an inclusive attitude toward LGBTQ people.

“Amazon has really upped the ante,” Graham told the Wall Street Journal.

Immigration reformers are also using the specter of losing Amazon HQ2 to instill fear in the hearts of the legislature. The Journal reported that several immigration-related proposals, including one to make English the state’s official language, have been branded as the “Adios Amazon” bills.

Sen. Josh McKoon told WSB-TV there is no evidence his proposal to make English the official language of Georgia would have any impact on Amazon’s decision.

“Corporations make these decisions along three lines,” McKoon said. “They decide based on tax and regulatory policies. They decide based on available infrastructure and workforce, and they decide based on how fat the economic incentive check is going to be.”

But state Rep. Pedro “Pete” Marin (D) said McKoon’s bill was nothing but a “black eye for the state of Georgia” that would only hurt the state’s Amazon bid.

“My take is, you know, we need to stop this in their tracks. We need not to have them move forward,” Marin said.

Georgia legislators are also breaking new ground regarding mass transit. For the first time, they are thinking about giving substantial state funding to an Atlanta-area mass-transit system; again, because that is what Amazon seems to want.

Atlanta is one of 20 communities on a list of semi-finalists for the new headquarters project released by Amazon on Jan. 18. Amazon representatives are now expected to visit each of the cities and narrow the list down to the top three.

If Atlanta makes it to the final three, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) said he was ready to do whatever it takes to put together an even longer list of enticements than the original bid already submitted to Amazon.

“Let me assure you that if Georgia makes the list of final three contenders for HQ2, I will call a special session so that we can make whatever statutory changes are required to accommodate a business opportunity of this magnitude,” Deal said.

What Georgia is offering is a secret, which is allowed under state law. But the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the package is thought to total more than $1 billion in grants, tax breaks and promises of transportation improvements.

However, a team of economic developers and economists, led by Richard Florida, the author of The Creative Class, is urging support for a “Non-Aggression Pact for Amazon’s HQ2” via a petition campaign.