Reports The Big Book

Big deals dominate headlines

Amazon is expected to create at least 25,000 jobs

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Print this page by Michael O’Connor
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AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The economic development deals announced around Virginia in 2018 ushered in plenty of investment, hype and, in some cases, debate.

Dominating the headlines and hot takes last year was Amazon’s “Hunger Games”-style competition that pitted state against state for the chance to host the tech behemoth’s second headquarters, otherwise known as HQ2.

After receiving 238 proposals from across North America, Seattle-based Amazon decided to split its second headquarters between Arlington County and New York City. (Amazon later backed out of the New York deal after facing intense political opposition.)

In exchange for a minimum of 25,000 new, well-paid jobs, Virginia promised Amazon $550 million in cash grant money. If Amazon goes on to create another 12,850 jobs, the company would get an extra $200 million. The deal was the state’s largest jobs announcement last year and its second-largest investment announcement.

Virginia officials in government, business and higher education heralded the deal as a once-in-a-generation boon for the economy. Critics of Virginia’s Amazon deal, however, say it will exacerbate housing and infrastructure issues. Spencer Shanholtz, a research and policy analyst at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, wrote, “Amazon made a good business decision, and Virginia got a good deal.”

Big as it was, the Amazon deal wasn’t the largest investment announced for Virginia last year. That title goes to the $3 billion that Micron Technology Inc., a semiconductor manufacturer, pledged to invest in its Manassas plant. Similar to the Amazon deal, the Micron announcement was praised by many and derided by others — the most notable critic being state Del. Lee Carter, who represents the district where Micron’s plant is located.

The size of the Amazon and Micron deals — both in Northern Virginia — dwarfed the other top economic development projects announced elsewhere in the state. The third-largest project announced, in terms of investment, was Facebook’s plan to invest an additional $750 million in a data center project underway in Henrico County just outside Richmond. The second-biggest jobs announcement was the 2,000 jobs promised by Newport News Shipbuilding in Hampton Roads.

The top sectors by investment and jobs mirror the size of the deals mentioned above. There were 25,428 “management of companies and enterprises” jobs promised. “Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing” was the sector with the largest total for investment dollars at just north of $3 billion. The figures are provided by the Virginia Economic Development Partnership.

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