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Amazon says, “Thank U, Next” to Atlanta

Photo by Azam Lalani | The Signal

Over a year ago, Amazon propositioned all the big cities in the United States to prove their worth and entice the trillion dollar company to build its next headquarters in that state. That “worth” mostly came in as tax breaks, and the larger the dollar amount, the better. Atlanta, with its recent “Hollywood of the Southeast” designation, tossed its hat in the ring with an unprecedented $1 billion in incentives for a proposed Amazon development project. Included in those incentives were a state-funded Amazon academy, an exclusive lounge – with free parking – at the world’s busiest airport and an Amazon MARTA car.

Those were some very shiny incentives for Amazon to salivate over, which is why Atlanta made the Top 20 shortlist this past January, alongside Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Northern Virginia (Loudoun and Fairfax counties) and Washington, D.C.

But alas, it just wasn’t meant to be. With Amazon’s eyes on Atlanta and Georgia as a whole, the last thing our state needed was to bring unwanted attention our way. And that unwanted attention came in the form of then-Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle and Delta Airline’s politically charged battle. As you’ll recall, Delta withdrew its discounts for NRA members after threats of a widespread boycott for being buddy-buddy with the gun lobbyist followed the massacre of 17 students in a Florida high school.

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Lt. Governor Cagle wasn’t having that, he launched a high-profile campaign to punish Delta.

On Feb. 26, Cagle tweeted, “I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA. Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”

Cagle drew his line in the sand and days later the Senate Committee removed the jet fuel tax break. House Bill 918 passed the Senate 44-10 and House 135-24 after Senate leaders stripped a provision to eliminate sales taxes on jet fuel. In the blink of an eye the jet fuel break, a deal worth more than $40 million to Delta and other airlines in the state of Georgia, was gone.

If a multinational company like Delta could have a tax break removed on the whim of a Lt. Governor, what would Amazon have to look forward to in Georgia? Would the cushy promises dry up?

Now that Amazon has announced its decision to home not one, but two new headquarters nowhere near Atlanta, it’s become clear that our past Lt. Governor and his political strong-arming is partially to blame.

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Yet that’s not all Atlanta had rooting against it in the bid for Amazon’s attention. The city has a horrible reputation when it comes to traffic congestion. It doesn’t matter if Atlanta has one of the busiest airports in the world, an educated workforce, a booming film industry, and a buzzing business climate if you’re stuck in traffic and can’t reach any of those places.

INRIX, a company that specializes in car services and transportation analytics, ranked Atlanta the fourth worst across the country in traffic congestion — not a very good look if we’re trying to impress Amazon. While MARTA is making moves to add more than 20 miles of new rail and 18 miles of rapid bus transit routes, these plans are slow moving and will take years if not decades for such seeds to take root.

No one in their right mind would pick a fight with Delta, especially with the eyes of Amazon watching over every city they have interest in. Cagle shot himself, and Atlanta in the foot with his conservative attack.