Nashville is now one of 20 finalists for Amazon’s highly coveted second headquarters. It promises to bring as many as 50,000 jobs and the caché of welcoming one of the world’s most successful companies. But it’s not clear what Nashville is promising in return.
We talked with Adam Sichko with the Nashville Business Journal, who has been
reporting on the city’s incentive plan. Listen to the interview above, or read an abbreviated version below.
Do we know what was in Nashville’s proposal?
“We don’t know very much about what was in Nashville’s pitch, and that’s the case for the majority of the cities and markets that bid on this headquarters, I would say. The bid was compiled by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, acting in concert with the mayor’s office and also the state Department of Economic and Community Development. For reasons including open records laws and the fact that the Chamber is a private organization, they have declined to publicize the details of exactly what was in the city’s pitch to Amazon.”
Is it unusual that Nashville isn’t releasing much information at all?
“A number of cities may not have taken as specific of an approach. They may have in broad strokes outlined the various incentives programs that exist. For instance, we know that Metro makes available a jobs grant of $500 per job, per year, over a seven-year period to any number of companies that are expanding in the city. Metro also has the ability to waive property taxes. The state also has its own prescription for incentive programs that are out there in public, so you can do some very rough math, but we still don’t know with any precision or specificity what exactly is in that bid.”
What do you think Nashville’s real chances are?
“There is actually an Irish bookmaker who will let you place wagers on which city is going to get this Amazon bid.
“When this bid first started, it was almost like a fantasy. A project of this scale does not come around every year, or even every decade. Now that Nashville has been shortlisted, this is now more of a gut-check moment for the people who live and work in this city: Do we really want this? Can we absorb this amount of growth when we already having debates about housing affordability and transit issues?
“I think another question is going to be the size of our tech workforce. If you look at the other 20 cities in contention here, most of them have more sizable existing pools of tech workers. So, I feel that Nashville’s bid would have to rely more on the ‘build it and they will come’ dynamic.”