As Bids For Amazon’s Headquarters Come Due, Tech Has A Chance To Spread The Wealth

By Andrew Khouri
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Amazon ponders where to locate a second headquarters site and 50,000 workers — proposals are due by Oct. 19 — it is raising questions about whether the industry, and America, would be better off spreading the tech-jobs wealth.

Los Angeles Times

As Amazon established its dominance in online retail, logistics and cloud computing, the company’s headquarters in Seattle grew appropriately massive. Today it represents a $5 billion investment in 33 buildings, 8 million square feet and more than 40,000 employees.

Just this month, the digital giant confirmed it would be leasing another 722,000 square feet in a 58-story tower in the heart of the city’s downtown.

Amazon has helped establish Seattle as one of the great tech meccas, behind the San Francisco Bay Area. But the concentration of tech growth on the West Coast has come with a cost, in terms of skyrocketing housing costs and jammed freeways.

Now, as Amazon ponders where to locate a second headquarters site and 50,000 workers — proposals are due by Oct. 19 — it is raising questions about whether the industry, and America, would be better off spreading the tech-jobs wealth.

Clustering is not new to tech. Think Los Angeles and Hollywood. Or Detroit and automakers, Pittsburgh and steel, Houston and oil. Like those earlier examples, tech centers were kick-started by one or two big successful companies. In Silicon Valley, it was Fairchild Semiconductor and Hewlett-Packard; in Seattle, Microsoft.

The advantages of clustering are well-known: Companies get easy access to specialized investment expertise and skilled workers. Workers have many choices of employers. Engineers with an idea can break away to form a start-up knowing the infrastructure is already in place.

“The history of the United States is wrapped around this clustering,” said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner with Beacon Economics. “If you are ahead of the game when an important cluster is formed, it gives you an advantage for decades to come.”

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