The Industry

Here Are the Outrageous Incentives That Losing Cities Offered Amazon for HQ2

Amazon logo on a building.
Multiple cities offered Amazon billions of dollars in tax cuts and other incentives.
Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images

Amazon announced Tuesday that it would be building headquarters in New York City and northern Virginia, ending a dizzying and showy selection process that at one point included 238 candidate cities. Amazon will also build a third, smaller hub in Nashville. The prospect of a company worth over $1 trillion setting up shop and stimulating economic growth motivated cities and states to offer billions of dollars in tax subsidies and infrastructure renovations for the chance to host the so-called HQ2.

New York and Virginia collectively promised more than $2 billion in incentives, which it turns out was fairly modest compared with some of the offers that Amazon received from losing candidates. While most local governments have been cagey about their entreaties to Amazon throughout the process—Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in fact fought open records requests to release their proposals—we now have a better sense of what many of the wishful cities were promising. Here’s a quick look at what we know about the various incentive packages, along with estimates of their total worth.

Montgomery County, Maryland: $8.5 Billion

Maryland lawmakers approved a $6.5 billion tax incentive package for Amazon in April. Gov. Larry Hogan called the deal the PRIME Act, which included a $10 million yearly grant from Maryland’s Sunny Day fund and tax subsidies for wages and sales of construction materials.

The state also pledged $2 billion to renovate infrastructure and transportation in Montgomery County’s White Flint Mall, which Amazon had picked as a finalist for its headquarters.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: $5.7 Billion

The Pennsylvania state Department of Community and Economic Development offered Amazon $4.6 billion in financial assistance over a 25-year period and an additional $100 million to improve transportation around the proposed headquarters.

Philadelphia, the state’s largest city, also promised to pitch in around $1.1 billion in “tax increment financing,” which is essentially a development subsidy.

Chicago, Illinois: More Than $2 Billion

Illinois offered Amazon $1.32 billion in EDGE tax credits, which are meant to lure businesses that create jobs, over 17 years; $172.5 million in waivers for sales and utility taxes; and $450 million in transportation infrastructure investment.

The EDGE tax credits assume that Amazon would have employed 2,500 residents in the first year and 50,000 residents in 17 years, and are equivalent to around half of employees’ income tax withholdings. Chicago and Cook County promised $61.4 million in property tax discounts, reducing the typical 25 percent tax to 10 percent in the first three years, and to 20 percent by the fifth year.

Atlanta, Georgia: More Than $2 Billion

The state of Georgia offered Amazon $1.3 billion in “mega project tax credits,” a $100 million investment into the headquarters site, and a $320 million exemption for sales taxes accrued through purchasing construction materials. The city of Atlanta volunteered $87 million in local tax credits, $2.2 billion in infrastructure investments for areas around potential headquarters sites, and a $25 million grant from the local economic development department.

Local governments also offered a number of perks that didn’t have price estimates, the most striking of which was the “Amazon Georgia Academy.” The proposed academy would’ve offered a 24-week training program for staffers and university students. The city also offered a car exclusively for Amazon personnel on Atlanta’s mass transit system and 50 free parking spots and a lounge for Amazon executives at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Newark, New Jersey: $7 Billion

New Jersey offered Amazon $5 billion in tax incentives over a 10-year period if the company produced 50,000 jobs.

Newark, the largest city in New Jersey, also promised a property tax abatement worth an estimated $1 billion, and another $1 billion in waived local wage taxes for Amazon workers over the next 20 years.

Columbus, Ohio: $2.8 Billion

Columbus pledged to give Amazon a 15-year tax exemption for property within the city limits, equaling about $2.28 billion. The city also offered a maximum $400 million in income tax waivers, a 25 percent income tax break to reimburse Amazon for the cost of development worth a maximum of $75 million, and a maximum $7.5 million transportation infrastructure fund. Columbus further included dark fiber-optic broadband capacity as a perk.