Business & Tech

SCOTT KIRSNER | INNOVATION ECONOMY

Readers react to the prospect of Amazon in Boston

Workers prepared items for shipping earlier this month at an Amazon facility in Peterborough, England.
Leon Neal/Getty Images
Workers prepared items for shipping earlier this month at an Amazon facility in Peterborough, England.

In 2018, one lucky mayor is going to appear at a press conference and announce some really big news: Amazon’s second North American headquarters, dubbed HQ2, is coming to town and bringing with it a projected 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in investment.

Last month, I shared my predictions about what will happen if the chosen city is in Massachusetts, or if the state is passed over. And I asked you for your predictions and perspectives. In case you haven’t been following closely, Amazon received 238 bids from cities across North America by its Oct. 19 deadline.

Here’s what readers said, via e-mail and in the comments section of my original piece:

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“All I can say is, send me a sign [that says] ‘No Amazon Here’ that I can put in my front yard,” Randy Bairnsfather of Winchester wrote.

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“If the main purpose is for Amazon to hire MIT or other high-level software engineers, let Amazon stay away,” Richard Carlin of Salem, N.H., wrote. “People in those positions will always have an easy time finding a job. If Amazon will create lots of jobs for mid-level college or high school graduates, then let’s welcome Amazon — but don’t give away the farm” in tax incentives.

“Attracting Amazon would be a great win for Boston and the New England economy as a whole,” wrote Jeff Solomon, a partner at the Waltham accounting firm of Katz Nannis + Solomon.

“But it seems that every day, I am reading a new headline on what the towns, state, and city are prepared to do to get them to choose us. Enough already. We need to remember what got us here in the first place. It’s the early-stage, small businesses that make up the majority of the workforce here and provide and allow young, talented and intelligent people to start, grow and nurture our Massachusetts economy. Let’s not forget that these companies, that make up more than 50 percent of the workforce here in Massachusetts and create more jobs in the state than any Amazon ever could, deserve our attention and praise.”

Solomon suggests that “we should be focusing on helping these young start-up companies grow into the Amazons of the world, rather than focusing on attracting one that has already made it. I know a few that will get there for sure. . . . Let’s boost up these [Mass.] companies, and I for one, think we should offer them incentives to grow and stay right here!”

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The key Boston location put forward as a prospective spot for Amazon is Suffolk Downs, the former horse racing track on the border of East Boston and Revere. Regardless of whether Amazon picks Suffolk Downs, wrote Chris Dempsey, director of the nonprofit Transportation for Massachusetts, “We should be talking seriously about how to better connect it to the rest of Greater Boston. If we want the Commonwealth to remain competitive with other regions we must support the mobility needs of all residents and businesses — those that are here already and those that will be attracted to everything our state has to offer. For all of Massachusetts’ positive attributes, transportation and traffic congestion have arisen as state-wide challenges that demand serious attention. If we put these conversations on hold until the next big opportunity arises, Massachusetts is at risk of falling behind.”

Dogeared, an online commenter, made this prediction: “If Amazon chooses Suffolk Downs, housing stock in that area will go crazy. And I mean all housing, not just high-end housing. [A headquarters] that size will employ a lot of administrative type people who will want to live within a few miles of HQ2.”

The city might want Amazon to come here, John Callahan of Dunstable wrote, “but it doesn’t need Amazon.”

“If Amazon comes, they will compete with [the online furnishings merchant] Wayfair for personnel, and that will also exacerbate the housing problem,” Peter Flato of Ipswich said.

“Frankly, I think Amazon in Boston will create and exacerbate more problems that it will solve.”

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Boston-based Wayfair said recently that it was hunting for new office space to accommodate an additional 10,000 employees — which is not exactly chopped liver.

‘If Amazon comes, they will compete with Wayfair for personnel, and that will also exacerbate the housing problem.’

Peter Flato of Ipswich  

Fady Saad, the cofounder of Mass Robotics, a shared workspace for robotics startups in Boston, contends that my coverage of Amazon’s HQ2 has “totally ignored” the possibility that it could wind up in Canada. (Not totally true: in early September, I called the Toronto-Waterloo region “the most interesting dark horse candidate.”)

Saad wrote, “I personally believe that from a ‘redundancy’ point of view, which seems the whole idea of a ‘second HQ,’ unfortunately, it makes lots of sense that this is where Amazon might finally land. The political, immigration and AI momentum aspects are all on Canada’s side! I hope I would be proved wrong.”

Gordon Jamieson of Arlington believes Boston will win HQ2 because 10 to 20 percent of the employees at Amazon’s current headquarters “will probably be relocated to HQ2” and that those employees might not be thrilled about a new address in Pittsburgh, Baltimore, or Atlanta.

JJshello, a Web commenter, posed an important question: “Should Boston’s bid not be selected, how do we keep elected officials focused squarely on perhaps the two most critical issues related to quality of life for living and working in the Greater Boston metropolitan area: public transportation and reasonably affordable housing? We’ve got to continue to focus and address those issues regardless of Amazon’s [ultimate] siting decision.”

“No chance, no way, no how does Amazon come to Boston,” a Web commenter called The Dark Night wrote. “Bottleneck congestion traffic now . . . insanely high housing costs, terrible weather. Boston being used as a chip to drive up the ante in either Atlanta or Austin. Wake up, people.”

Another Web commenter, ricard0, wrote, “I cannot imagine why anyone with reasonable thought would not want and welcome Amazon anywhere in this state. Amazon would be a defining moment for this State to change its parochial ways and move into this century.”

Amazon is a company that plays things extremely close to the vest. If we get any leaks about the decision-making process, I suspect they’ll come from government officials or real estate professionals who are boasting that their city is on the short list — despite having signed a stack of Amazon nondisclosure agreements. But a multidisciplinary group of people at the company is now combing through those 238 bids, and all that Amazon spokesman Adam Sedo would confirm is that the company still plans to make a decision in 2018. Beyond that, he had no comment.

So, I’m grateful for all the comments you sent along.

Scott Kirsner can be reached at kirsner@pobox.com. Follow him on Twitter @ScottKirsner.