Civic News
Economics / Municipal government

DC isn’t releasing what economic incentives it offered Amazon for HQ2

Public records released after a request by Kate Rabinowitz show what the District spent on marketing materials for the proposal, but not the money that was offered.

What do the locals do around here? (Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)

Part of the equation in the race to win the sweepstakes for Amazon HQ2 are the economic incentives offered by municipal governments. In D.C., like other municipalities, the details of what was offered remain under wraps.

But presentation also counts, and D.C. officials were willing to spend for their proposal, according to documents obtained and posted on github by data journalist Kate Rabinowitz. 

“This is, by far, the most any city has spent that we know of,” the ProPublica data fellow and DataLensDC creator wrote in a Twitter thread, adding that the next largest is Miami with about half that total.

As Washingtonian reports, the documents state that the District paid $140,000 to the marketing firm Mars on Gravity Productions. These funds went toward creating the promotional campaign for the bid that launched in September, including, promotional videos and other marketing materials. Videos were also released around the time bids were due in October, including one highlighting business leaders talking about why they chose D.C.

Despite the #obviouslydc branding associated with the HQ2 campaign, that video contains lots of talk about the District that isn’t necessarily Amazon-specific. It will be interesting to see if there is a push to build on the work, as our sister site Philly noted is happening in that city. As DC Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner said at last week’s Washington DC Economic Partnership meeting, the growth is happening whether the tech giant comes or not.

The total for the marketing materials also included an add-on for additional work highlighting the possibility of HQ2 at a riverfront location. It seems that made the final pitch, as the Washington Business Journal reported the Anacostia riverfront was among the four proposed sites released by the District.

As for the economic incentives, those were not released despite a formal public records request from Rabinowitz. A city spokesperson confirmed to Washingtonian that details on the incentives were not part of the “public version” that was released due to protecting a competitive bid. That mirrors similar moves in Philly and Baltimore.

So while the bidding for the second headquarters was unusually public, key details still remain behind closed doors.

Companies: Amazon

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