In 2014, Elon Musk secured $1.3 billion in tax grants from the state of Nevada to open a battery plant, this caught the attention of Jeff Bezos. Green with envy over Musk’s ability to pit five states against one another in a bidding war for thousands of manufacturing jobs – he wondered why Amazon was regularly accepting comparatively minuscule incentives.
In 2017, an executive sent a congratulatory email in 2017 praising his team for securing $40 million in government incentives to build a $1.5 billion air hub near Cincinnati. The modest figure truly bothered Bezos, and made him hell bent to try something new.
May The Games Begin…
Later that year, Amazon made the announcement that it was looking for a home for its second headquarters (HQ2) which would entail the creation of 50,000 new jobs and a pledge to invest $5 billion.
Despite Amazon making it widely known that it was looking for government handouts, cities continent wide partook in a hunger games esque challenge to win Amazon. Specifically, 238 cities across North America submitted bids to be the home of HQ2. In the end Amazon decided to split the HQ2 between New York and Virginia. After being attacked by politicians over the $3 billion in incentives offered by New York, Bezos pulled the plug.
Amazon was scrutinized after failing to court New York politicians. Individual’s familiar with Amazon’s effort say the team drank too many glasses of its own kool-aid. This led to executives abandoning lessons learned over the years around reciprocity when seeking major tax breaks, and instead believed every city would welcome Amazon with open arms, leaving a taste of entitlement in the mouths of government officials.
However, with $762 million in incentives from Virginia, Amazon is just $100 million shy of the $2.4 billion Tesla has amassed in handouts.