Scholars, experts tell HQ2 finalists to reject Amazon’s request for incentives

Amazon is considering where it will build its second headquarters, and the Triangle is among 20 finalists.

But nearly 100 academics, urbanists and policy experts called on HQ2 finalists to reject Amazon’s request for incentives. They were joined in their petition by thousands of others.

A petition titled “Support a Non-Aggression Pact for Amazon’s HQ2” had more than 13,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon. It implores elected officials and community leaders in the HQ2 finalist cities to reject the “level of incentives and the looming competition between cities over incentives for Amazon’s new headquarters.”

“We, the undersigned, represent a broad range of urbanists, urban economists, policymakers, and experts on cities,” the petition reads. “Some of us are more liberal and others are more conservative. Some of us take a stronger position against the use of incentives; others believe incentives can be used within some reasonable bounds and limits. All of us believe that business activity and private sector competition help to drive vibrant urban economies by providing jobs, spurring innovation, and generating demand.”

The petition calls tax giveaways and business location incentives “often wasteful and counterproductive, according to a broad body of research.”

“Such incentives do not alter business location decisions as much as is often claimed, and are less important than more fundamental location factors. Worse, they divert funds that could be put to better use underwriting public services such as schools, housing programs, job training, and transportation, which are more effective ways to spur economic development.”

While petition signers said they supported Amazon’s quest to build a second headquarters, they “fear that the contest among jurisdictions – cities, metro regions, states, and provinces – for this facility threatens to spiral out of control.”

Already, at least four of the finalists proposed multi-billion-dollar incentive packages.

“This use of Amazon’s market power to extract incentives from local and state governments is rent-seeking and anti-competitive,” the petition reads. “It is in the public interest to resist such behavior and not play into or enable it.”

Amazon’s appetite for incentives has been controversial since the company released its proposal in September with critics labeling it “disgusting” and a “race to the bottom.” But some cities jumped at the opportunity to gain an edge in what has become perhaps the biggest economic development contest in modern U.S. history.

Signees included faculty and staff from the University of Toronto, Harvard, the Brookings Institution, London School of Economics, University of California at Berkeley, Columbia, Princeton, Stanford, Brown, UCLA, Chapman University, the Economic Policy Institute, MIT, New York University, the University of Chicago, the Center for Economic Policy and Research and many others.

The petition was championed by Richard Florida, a professor and director of cities at the University of Toronto.

To see the whole petition or a list of those who signed it, go to