Amazon’s search for prime rewards

No one ever accused Jeff Bezos of being a bad businessman. Well, maybe some when Amazon was just selling books online and wallowing in red ink in the early years. But the guy who made Amazon a household name by disrupting the entire retail industry has triggered a civil war across the country – and into Canada – by pitting city against city in a bid to win his company’s new HQ2.

In the process, Amazon could reap hundreds of millions, perhaps billions, in incentives and credits the likes of which no company has seen or government offered. That, no doubt, was the plan and it seems to be working out.

Communities large and small are jumping through hoops to attract Amazon’s planned 8 million square foot second headquarters and the estimated 50,000 jobs. It’s not just the usual suspects such as Austin, Nashville, Chicago, and New York. Places such as Lawrence, Haverhill, and North Andover are dreaming big and bonding to submit a joint bid, even asking Gov. Charlie Baker to make theirs the only Massachusetts proposal to Amazon. Good luck with that, say Boston’s boosters.

In its request for proposal for its $5 billion facility to complement its Seattle headquarters, the company set out a laundry list of requirements, including an international airport with nonstop flights to Seattle; major universities with strong tech programs; access to mass transit; a metropolitan area with at least 1 million residents; and a minimum of 100 acres to accommodate the planned 33 buildings.

Boston checks off most, if not all those boxes, as well as a few more unspoken mandates such as political harmony, more or less, and a vibrant social and community life. But, then, so do a number of other candidates such as Charlotte, Dallas, and Atlanta, not to mention neighbors to the north in Vancouver and Toronto. So it will come down to green. As in cash, even if that vulgar phrase is unspoken.

The Boston Globe’s Shirley Leung, one of the city’s biggest business boosters who has rarely seen a corporate proposal she couldn’t get behind, thinks the city and state are a little too complacent about going after Amazon, resting on their laurels after attracting GE with a $145 million incentive package.

“Getting GE to relocate its headquarters to Boston from Connecticut was no small feat,” writes Leung, who says Suffolk Downs would be the perfect place. “But city and state officials shouldn’t just dust off that winning proposal and expect Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to call. This will not be your typical corporate buildout that gets sealed with a trophy tower and sizeable tax breaks.”

But Leung’s conservative colleague Jeff Jacoby calls the incentive packages “bribes” that rarely pay off in the end. And in what is likely to cause him consternation, the far left DigBoston comes to the same conclusion.

Bloomberg News reports that several upper-level Amazon executives are pushing hard for Boston because of the presence of Harvard and MIT for talent pool and research and development, but Amazon says there are no front-runners at this point. And the New York Times did an analysis of cities around the country that are viable candidates and Boston was one of the four finalists in its pretend competition, with Denver being the paper’s prediction. Some, though, may wonder who the Times is talking about when it includes the city’s affordability and ease of getting around as playing in Boston’s favor. But that’s for the naysayers.

In the end, the simple summary conclusion in Amazon’s eight-page request says it all.

“As this is a competitive Project, Amazon welcomes the opportunity to engage with you in the creation of an incentive package, real estate opportunities, and cost structure to encourage the company’s location of the Project in your state/province,” the RFP says.

In other words, “show me the money.”

JACK SULLIVAN


BEACON HILL

Steven Hoffman, the chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission, assumes the role of interim executive director as the agency struggles to get up and running quickly. (CommonWealth) Jennifer Flanagan, one of the commissioners and a former state senator, refuses to say whether she ever tried marijuana. (MassLive)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jay Gonzalez calls for an investigation of Gov. Charlie Baker’s connections to the pro-charter school group hit this week with the biggest campaign finance fine in state history for shielding the identity of donors to last fall’s ballot question campaign. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Officials in Holliston, where voters approved a ban on retail marijuana in town, have made a host agreement with a third medical marijuana facility, bringing the total to more than $1.5 million the community could potentially receive over five years from the three operations. (MetroWest Daily News)

After a string of shootings, Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini makes plans to launch a gang violence task force. (Eagle-Tribune)

Mashpee selectmen voted 4-1 to stop putting documents accompanying agendas for upcoming meetings online and will only make the public records available in Town Hall to save a staff member about an hour’s work. Meanwhile, Falmouth, Dennis, and Yarmouth become the first three towns on the Cape to put their financial information online for taxpayers to see how the money is spent. (Cape Cod Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump’s meeting yesterday with Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak is just the latest in a string of warm encounters or warm words he’s had for authoritarian world leaders. (Boston Globe)

The Supreme Court has allowed the Trump administration to retain restrictions in its travel ban that would keep an estimated 24,000 immigrants from entering the country, though the justices left in place recent lower court rulings that exempted grandparents and cousins of those already in the United States. (Associated Press)

US Sen. Bernie Sanders prepares to file his Medicare-for-all bill with 10 senators on board; two years ago he pushed for a similar bill and couldn’t find a single cosponsor. (Time) Sanders explains the need for the legislation. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

The Washington Post analyzes Hillary Clinton’s claim that the media cost her the election.

Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, who admitted last week he was under investigation by the FBI, topped the field in the low-turnout preliminary election Tuesday and will face off against City Council President Linda Pereira, who came in second among the five candidates. (Herald News)

State Rep. Geoff Diehl, one of several Republicans looking to unseat Sen. Elizabeth Warren, has pledged his volunteers to the signature gathering drive to place a question on the November 2018 ballot to cut the state sales tax. (State House News Service)

A question on the New Bedford ballot in November will ask voters if they want to have the city’s mayor serve four years rather than two. (South Coast Today)

Nurses mobilize behind a ballot question that would place a limit on patient ratios. (Gloucester Times)

Howie Carr is less than taken with the talk of a MItt Romney run for Senate in Utah. (Boston Herald)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Under pressure from arts groups and Boston City Hall, the developer of the last large parcel in the Seaport agrees to include a performing arts center in the project. (Boston Globe)

Credit reporting agency Equifax has agreed to drop its fee for freezing credit after a public uproar in the wake of the breech at the company that exposed personal information for as many as 143 million people. (New York Times)

US household income was up in 2016, but mostly because people added hours to their work week or more people in a household were working, not because of an increase in wages. (Boston Globe)

Hiawatha Bray says the pricey $1,000 iPhone X is a “major letdown.” (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

During the 2016-2017 school year, 16.9 percent of students in Worcester were chronically absent, meaning they missed at least 10 percent of classes. While Worcester officials were alarmed at the rate, the community fared better than Fall River (31.6 percent), Boston (25.8 percent), and Springfield (24 percent). (Telegram & Gazette)

The Lowell School Committee and the Lowell City Council asked a judge to decide which one of them has the authority to decide where the city’s high school should be located. (Lowell Sun)

Critics say proposed “innovation zone” legislation backed by Gov. Charlie Baker is an end-run around unions designed to bring charter-like policies to school districts just after voters rejected an expansion of the autonomously-run schools. (Boston Herald)

East Bridgewater school officials have recalled more than 1,100 laptops issued to students in grades 7 through 12 after several of them began smoking because of wiring shorts in the camera. (The Enterprise)

The Adams-Cheshire School Committee said it will investigate new claims of sexual abuse from the 1970s. (Berkshire Eagle)

TRANSPORTATION

The bonus of new MBTA General Manager Luis Manuel Rivera is tied to boosting state of good repair spending by 42 percent and boosting on-time performance across the system. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Kathleen Sullivan, the former chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party, says Eversource’s Northern Pass project is not ready for prime time and Massachusetts should go with the fully permitted TDI project that runs under Lake Champlain and underground. (Union Leader)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Taunton man who was shot along with his father as the two men rode their motorcycles on the Southeast Expressway in Dorchester has died. Police say it does not appear the victims knew the man who allegedly shot them, who police have in custody. (Taunton Gazette)

Three people are in custody after the shooting of a teenager on Boston Common at the tail end of yesterday’s evening rush hour. (Boston Herald)

MEDIA

Dan Kennedy says there need to be answers about the Globe’s printing debacle and the only one who can do that is the Globe, which has offered little except apologies so far. (Media Nation) In the latest sign of upheaval, Globe chief operating officer Sean Keohan is gone, reports the Boston Business Journal.

Kevin Corrado, the former publisher of the New Haven Register, is named publisher of the Lowell Sun and the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise. (Lowell Sun)

The San Francisco Chronicle has turned itself around financially. What’s its secret? (Columbia Journalism Review)

Australian actor Rebel Wilson won a $4.5 million libel judgment against magazine publisher Bauer Media, which ran articles in Woman’s Day and Women’s Weekly suggesting Wilson was a serial liar. (The Guardian)

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Here’s the last sentence in Amazon’s RFP: “Amazon may select one or more proposals and negotiate with the parties submitting such proposals before making an award decision, or it may select no proposals and enter into no agreement.” Could this just be another free publicity generating opportunity for Amazon like its drone segment on 60 Minutes a couple of years ago…and just in time for the Christmas shopping season? The timeline is very short for responses. The RFP was issued on September 7th and proposals are due October 16th – 19th. I expected the turnaround time to be at least six months to one year for such a large project.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    CommonWealth’s editors are really fixated the proposed “innovation zone” legislation for public schools. In Springfield…the one place where such a zone exists in Massachusetts…there is no documented student success…none. What’s interesting is the bill’s sponsor is State Rep. Alice Peisch who served as the co-chair of the Foundation Budget Review Commission that released a report in 2015 finding the state significantly shortchanges public education funding in the Foundation Budget…the mechanism distributing aid to local public schools…in special education, low income and English Language Learners. Peisch…representing Wellesley; Wayland and Weston where the per pupil expenditures are $18,185, $17,652 and $22,768 respectively or…wait for it… $7,252 to $12,368 more per student than the lowest per student spending school district…East Bridgewater. Instead of sponsoring a bill to fix and fully fund the Foundation Budget…Rep. Peisch is sponsoring a bill with a revenue neutral approach for underachieving public schools and no actual successful track record in the one place it’s been running. Rep. Alice Peisch knows the Foundation Budget needs immediate attention with significant funding but Peisch’s constituents’ children are attending fully funded and well-resourced public schools in Wellesley, Wayland and Weston. The Foundation Budget is not working as intended under the 1993 Education Reform Act…to ensure every student in Massachusetts has a high quality education. That’s what needs fixing and fully funding. The innovation zone bill is simply a distraction from that fact.

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Back a few years ago an Oregon newspaper did an investigative series on chronic absenteeism, “Empty Desks” that was awesome and very revealing. At the time no other state had a chronic absenteeism rate as high as Oregon’s public schools. About one out of four students didn’t make it to school and it wasn’t just high school with the problem. Now that the Telegram & Gazette spotlighted the problem in Worcester, Fall River, Boston and Springfield, this is the time for other news media to pick up on the story in a nonpartisan, non agenda driven way. For once, let’s try to identify what’s causing the problem and come up with real solutions.