When rumors surfaced last week that Amazon was having second thoughts about its New York headquarters, most observers took it as a bargaining move. Locals were pushing Amazon for more concessions, and if the company seemed ready to walk away, it might take the pressure off. With so much time and money invested, it seemed irrational to simply call it off.
For months, local politicians had been pushing Amazon on taxes and unionization. Activists booed executives out of city council meetings while protests circled the proposed construction site. With the mayor and governor bought in, no one thought they could stop the project entirely, but maybe if they made enough noise, they could unionize the janitors in the new buildings or shame Amazon into a few extra education programs.
Now, Amazon is leaving, and the picture looks very different. Amazon wasn’t as committed to New York as we thought, and those local protests had a greater effect than anyone realized. The biggest surprise was that, after years of loudly searching for a second headquarters, Amazon may have been more interested in favors from the local government than the building itself. The Northern Virginia and Nashville projects are still going forward as planned, but it’s anyone’s guess where the 25,000 workers projected for the New York site will end up. Maybe it wasn’t as necessary as it seemed?