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Fresno’s novel incentive for HQ2: Partner with the city on investments
tags: incentives
Eli Dile   on Thursday, November 30, 2017 at 9:00:00 am

Pitches for Amazon’s second headquarters have ranged from $7 billion in incentives to free land, a cactus, and a wholly new city, all in an attempt to stand out from the crowd of 238 competing bids. Fresno, California, falls into the long-shot column for the multi-billion-dollar headquarters, but its offer is among the most inventive.

Instead of traditional abatements, Fresno is offering Amazon control over how the tax revenue it brings to Fresno is spent. The Amazon Community Fund, as Fresno deems it, would allot 85 percent of the company’s property taxes into a pot of money controlled by a board made up of Amazon executives and city officials (Los Angeles Times). That money could be spent on anything from infrastructure and transit to improve its employees’ commutes, workforce development, or new public amenities to enjoy during or after work.

“Rather than the money disappearing into a civic black hole, Amazon would have a say on where it will go,” Fresno’s economic development director Larry Westerlund told the Los Angeles Times. “Not for the fire department on the fringe of town, but to enhance their own investment in Fresno.”

In addition to sharing in the gains, the fund would also make Amazon a partner in alleviating the stress a massive headquarters and 50,000 highly paid workers would place on the local housing market and city services. Amazon could direct that money toward affordable housing to mitigate gentrification concerns, if it sees fit.

Even if Amazon doesn’t bite, the proposal has merit worth considering as a potential alternative to traditional economic development incentives.

Image: Great Valley Center / CC BY 2.0

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