Arlington County approves $23M in Amazon growth incentives

With a unanimous vote after a tense public hearing, the five-member Arlington County Board approved to provide Amazon pay-for-performance grants that could total about $23 million over 15 years.

“Our vote today reflects our strong belief that Amazon will bring significant benefits to our community, to neighboring Alexandria, the region and the state,” board chair Christian Dorsey said in a statement.

The revenue would be drawn from the Transient Occupancy Tax — the money the county collects from hotel, motel and other lodging stays.

More than 100 people — those in favor and those opposed to Amazon moving its headquarters to Crystal City in Virginia — addressed the board Saturday afternoon during a public hearing.

“Amazon does not share Arlington’s values and embracing them is a betrayal to the progressive values that many of you state,” said Cristin Reeder, of Alexandria, a public school teacher and a member of Our Revolution Arlington. “We cannot give public money to a corporation that is an invisible backbone of ICE’S (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) deportation agenda,” she said.

Di Dong, who described herself as a new resident of Arlington, said she strongly supports the incentive program to Amazon.

“I actually think if we do it right, it can actually improve opportunities for low-income households,” Dong said.

The hearing room was standing room only, and other members of the public watched the proceedings on TV screens in overfill rooms outside the board chambers.

“I welcome the millions of dollars that the state is investing in Arlington, and in particular Crystal City, and I am here to suggest that without Amazon we wouldn’t get one nickel of it,” said June O’Connell, an Arlington County resident.

The performance agreement between Arlington and Amazon is tied to the floor space Amazon occupies. The company would need to occupy just 64,000 square feet next year to obtain the grant. But the agreement anticipates Amazon occupying more than 6 million square feet in 2035.

The county also expects Amazon’s minimum average wage will be $150,000 a year, and Amazon will invest $2.5 billion dollars in Arlington.

“Money proposed to Amazon needs to be reinvested into education, housing and to ensure that Arlington County can withstand the changes and displacement Amazon will cause,” said Marian Almanza, of Alexandria.

In addition to the Amazon incentive vote, the county committed to using a portion of the new incremental revenue generated by Amazon’s arrival to make infrastructure investments within Crystal City, Potomac Yard and Pentagon City; and, along with the City of Alexandria, committed $570 million in transportation projects, a news release said.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano reported from Arlington, Virginia.

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