Letter to Residents from the County Board Chair
On behalf of the County Board, I am writing to share exciting news. This morning, Amazon announced that Arlington will be the location for a major new headquarters. This announcement culminates more than a year of planning and negotiation by leadership and staff at the County and state levels as well as partners in the private sector. It is a testament to Arlington County’s desirability as a place to do business that Amazon chose us from the 238 communities that submitted proposals for this project.
Over the past year, our economic development team has worked with the Commonwealth of Virginia and Amazon executives to determine how and whether the company fits into Arlington’s long-term strategies and plans for growth and to understand the company’s priorities for the major new headquarters. We believe that through their months of exploration, Amazon came to appreciate many advantages, from our diverse community and highly-educated workforce to our extensive transportation system and excellent schools. Most importantly, we have come to believe that Amazon’s planned headquarters can be compatible and complementary to our community’s long-term vision.
As we move forward, we know community members will have questions about the impact Amazon might have on Arlington. The company plans to build its presence gradually over at least a decade or more. There will not be an instantaneous influx of thousands of Amazon employees relocating to Arlington overnight. In fact, we anticipate that many of Amazon’s employees at the headquarters will already live in our region. Based on our experiences of prior large companies relocating to Arlington, we anticipate that 80-85% of Amazon’s workforce, and their school-aged children, will be distributed throughout the region and will live in other neighboring jurisdictions.
During our discussions, economic development staff and Board members have looked carefully at the anticipated local and regional impacts of Amazon’s presence on housing affordability, school enrollment and the transit network. We are working with the company to further ensure its plans align with our already established and approved growth plans and projections, as well as our community values of inclusion and environmental sustainability.
This decision is a significant one for Arlington’s business community and local economy. The company’s decision cements Arlington as a technology leader on the East Coast. The office space that Amazon will occupy will be critical in restoring stability to Arlington’s office environment, after years of high vacancy rates. High commercial office vacancies have caused ongoing gaps in the County’s operating budget. Each 1% of vacant office space takes away about $3.4 million annually from our local tax revenues. Over the years, Amazon’s increased presence will substantially reduce the eight million square feet that currently stands vacant in Arlington. The resulting revenues will help to provide the resources and amenities valued by our community.
Now that Amazon has selected Arlington, the County Board will proceed with our standard performance agreement process for companies that stand to receive financial incentives from the County, a process which includes public review and comment. As with other companies that have chosen to locate here, the County will draft an Economic Development Incentive agreement laying out the incentive structure and Amazon’s performance requirements. Arlington will proceed with the normal performance agreement process. Read more about Arlington’s proposed incentive at http://www.hqnova.com/info.html. The draft agreement will be brought before the County Board for a vote in February 2019. As it does with all Board items, the draft agreement will be available for review on the County’s website prior to the February County Board Meeting.
Over the coming weeks, my colleagues and I along with the County Manager will host Engage Arlington Virtual Learning Series to answer questions from the community about the project, the proposal, the incentive agreement and more. I hope you will join us for our first live session tonight at 6:30 pm on Arlington’s Facebook page.
We look forward to working with and hearing from our residents in the weeks and months to come, and to reaching an agreement with Amazon that enables many decades of a sustainable partnership that strengthens Arlington County.
Chair, Arlington County Board