Business, Features

Amazon HQ2 could boost employment but strain Boston’s infrastructure

Earlier this month, Amazon revealed a shortlist of cities being considered for the internet giant’s second headquarters. Out of 238 cities that applied, Boston, along with 19 others, made the cut.

The potential benefits of hosting Amazon’s headquarters are significant. In Seattle, more than 40,000 employees work for Amazon and 53,000 jobs were created in the city as a result of Amazon’s investments. Amazon estimates it has added an additional $38 billion to the city’s economy.

For its second headquarters, Amazon expects an investment of 5 billion dollars into construction and the creation of 50,000 new jobs.

Tal Gross, a professor in Boston University’s Questrom School of Business said at this point, it’s difficult to say how accommodating HQ2 could affect Boston.

“On the one hand, there are going to be a lot of jobs,” Gross said. “On the other hand, depending on the concessions the City offers Amazon, there can be downsides too.”

Having a huge corporate headquarters could drive up housing prices. From July 2016 to July 2017, Seattle’s metro area saw single-family home prices go up by 13.5 percent, which is 7.6 percent higher than the national average during the same time frame, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

The headquarters would mostly employ high-skilled computer science and I.T. workers, which Gross believes is one of Boston biggest selling points for Amazon, since it houses several STEM powerhouses like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University.

But highly skilled jobs, Gross said, won’t be the only new employment opportunities. “There be some increase in lesser-skilled jobs,” he said. “Construction would boom at least temporarily and all these computer programmers need to eat lunch.”

Gross said there could be definite downsides to having the headquarters in Boston, with an increase in traffic and whatever negatives might come as a result of Boston’s negotiations with Amazon.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said it was too early to look at incentives because Amazon has not clearly defined its expectations yet, as reported by CNBC.

At 26th on Forbes’ Fortune Global 500 list, Amazon is one of the world’s biggest, richest companies. Yet, Gross said, it’s unlikely that the behemoth would overtake or even negatively impact small businesses in Boston.

“This is a corporate headquarters. It’s not as though it’s like a Walmart,” Gross said. “This is very different, so I think small businesses would most benefit.”

Francis Snyder, a shift manager at Economy Hardware in Brookline, does not think the move will affect his store personally.

“I think it probably [won’t be a] huge deal for [Economy Hardware], we’d just have a boost in profits,” he said.

Considering Amazon’s impact on Boston as a whole, Snyder feels differently.

“We shouldn’t have to have Amazon have this big new headquarters to say improve transit,” he said. “We should just be doing that already as a baseline.”

Snyder said he believes Amazon’s status as a company first and foremost means they won’t prioritize Boston’s needs over their profits. “I think that [Amazon] might have a positive impact for the wrong reasons, and I don’t think we need Amazon to be able to make that positive impact, I think we should just be able to do it on our own.”

Some BU students are excited by the idea of having the mogul close to campus.

Benjamin Santilli, a sophomore in Questrom, said having the headquarters in Boston would be a huge advantage for students. “They’re hiring 50,000 new people,” Santilli said. “It just oozes opportunity for business students everywhere.”

“BU teaches and instills many of the traits that big companies like Amazon are looking for into their students. Amazon is known to love their team skills and BU students learn from the get-go in SM131 all about working in teams,” Santilli said. “If Amazon can help me out then I’m all for it.”

In coming months, Amazon said, the company will further review proposals from cities on its shortlist. “We expect to make a decision in 2018,” Amazon said in a press release.

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