Boston may be top Amazon HQ2 contender, but do residents want it here?

Only 34 percent of residents “strongly support” Amazon coming to town — the lowest rate out of all 16 finalists.
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Boston may be a top choice for HQ2, but do residents really want Boston to be the tech giant’s new second home?

 

Boston and the Washington, D.C. metro area are the “most likely candidates” for the second headquarters, according to a new report by The Conference Board, a business membership and research nonprofit.

 

The Conference Board looked at online job openings posted by Amazon between Dec. 2016 and Dec. 2017. These positions, according to Help Wanted OnLine data, fall under the same categories of jobs at their current headquarters, so seem to be roles Amazon would have to fill at their new headquarters, as well.

 

Not all Amazon shortlist cities saw these job ads, though. Boston and Washington saw both a large number of job ads in those areas, as well as a large increase in the amount of job ads compared to before that time period — suggesting, the report says, that they are the top contenders.

 

But a recent poll by Elon University found that there’s not a lot of strong support for HQ2 among Bostonians. Only 34 percent of residents here say they “strongly support” Amazon moving in — the lowest rate out of all 16 metro areas finalists.

That surprised James Stockard, a Harvard University urban planning lecturer and an expert on affordable housing and community development.

“The idea of a big national corporation coming to a particular location and bringing a whole lot of new jobs, generally people would see that as an attractive thing for their community,” he said.

Stockard isn’t in “strong support” of HQ2 here, either. He worries about how the addition of HQ2 would affect the local housing market, traffic, schools, taxes and so on.

It’s not that residents, or Stockard, are vehemently opposed — according to the poll, only 1 percent of Bostonians “strongly oppose” having HQ2 here. A lot of people are in the middle, with 38 percent saying they “somewhat support” and 22 percent saying they “neither support nor oppose” it. Stockard thinks they’re wondering about the same consequences as him.

“Boston has a generally pretty intelligent population, people think past the headlines often, and I give our community and residents a lot of credit for that. My guess is their thoughtfulness is leading to some questions,” he said.

So what needs to be done to address these questions? Officials from Amazon and the city and state, need to go beyond the big headlines —the fact of a big, famous company bringing 50,000 jobs — and talk about the implications of HQ2 directly with the public, Stockard said. And though that’s unusual, he thinks it could happen here.

“[It’s about] what can Amazon do as a corporate partner, if you will, with our region so that everybody wins, not just two or three of the actors?” he said, like Amazon getting Boston resources, but residents see housing prices and taxes skyrocket. “I do think we ought to look at this as an opportunity for a new form of dialogue between corporate interest and public interest.”

What would Amazon bring to its new HQ2 city?

50,000 “high-paying” jobs
$5 billion investment
8.1 million square-foot campus
$43 million paid into city’s public transportation system as employees’ transportation benefit
$38 billion in additional investments into the local economy

 
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