What Amazon's HQ2 cancellation reveals about the current talent market
- Amazon has pulled out of building its HQ2 in New York City due in part to pushback from local politicians and unions, the company has said, throwing into question exactly what will happen next in the region. The competition to entice the ecommerce giant to their city — and bring with it some 50,000 jobs — was fierce, with the Big Apple and Northern Virginia coming out as winners last November. Plans for Northern Virginia will go ahead as slated.
- Amazon is not the only company to make a big, splashy exit this year; GE recently announced a similar change of plans for one of its big Boston offices, the Boston Globe previously reported. The location may still be a top locale for tech talent, however, with competitors such as Google continuing to expand in the region.
- In response to the question of whether cities that originally lost to New York would be reconsidered for another HQ2 location, Amazon said: "We do not intend to reopen the HQ2 search at this time." That hasn't stopped cities like Sacramento and West Palm Beach from throwing their hat back in the ring in the hope that Amazon decides to move somewhere else.
The competition for cities to land HQ2 was fierce in 2018, with many offering tax incentives, training and more to gain thousands of jobs in their community. But a hunt for talent at that scale can face serious infrastructural barriers.
"We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity," New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement — further adding that if Amazon didn't want to negotiate, competitors likely will.
NYC and D.C. represent two major growing tech hubs on the east coast; in the D.C. area alone, half of workers revealed they would jump ship to join the company, leaving their current employers short-staffed in the tightest applicant market seen in years. Amazon had even said that it would split HQ2 thanks to the "talent potential" present in both cities.
In 2018, Amazon was called one of the top tech hirers in the U.S., and the HQ2 campaign was but one example of the company's influence. Communities began bracing for the ripple effect the HQ2 location would create in their back yards as soon as HQ2 was announced — but not all side effects of big competitors moving in are necessarily bad for other employers.
While companies may fear the short-term influx of competition for talent from big names like Google, Amazon and GE, employers could actually gain in the long-term as the talent market in those hot spots matures and widens, Moritz Kothe, CEO of kununu, previously told HR Dive. In other words, it pays to have a presence where big names stake their claims.
Amazon's purported fight with local politicians and unions stem from the city's notoriously employee friendly policies, including various bills on required PTO, jail time for deportation threats and required sexual harassment training.