At Strong Towns, we are frequently asked to lend our support to petitions. As a rule, even when we're sympathetic to the cause, we find that we can't participate in a way that is consistent with our mission and strategic plan. A request from Richard Florida to support the Amazon petition below is a unique circumstance creating an exception to the rule. If you would like to join Charles Marohn, Richard Florida and many others in supporting this statement, you can do so at Change.org.


To Elected Officials and Community Leaders of Amazon HQ2 Finalist Cities: 

We, the undersigned, represent a broad range of urbanists, urban economists, policymakers, and experts on cities. Some of us are more liberal and others are more conservative. Some of us take a stronger position against the use of incentives; others believe incentives can be used within some reasonable bounds and limits. All of us believe that business activity and private sector competition help to drive vibrant urban economies by providing jobs, spurring innovation, and generating demand.

But, we share a concern about the level of incentives and the looming competition between cities over incentives for Amazon’s new headquarters.

Tax giveaways and business location incentives offered by local governments are often wasteful and counterproductive, according to a broad body of research. Such incentives do not alter business location decisions as much as is often claimed, and are less important than more fundamental location factors. Worse, they divert funds that could be put to better use underwriting public services such as schools, housing programs, job training, and transportation, which are more effective ways to spur economic development.

While we are supportive of Amazon’s quest to build a new headquarters, we fear that the contest among jurisdictions—cities, metro regions, states, and provinces—for this facility threatens to spiral out of control. Already, at least four jurisdictions have proposed multi-billion-dollar incentive packages. This use of Amazon’s market power to extract incentives from local and state governments is rent-seeking and anticompetitive. It is in the public interest to resist such behavior and not play into or enable it.

We urge you the mayors, governors, and other elected officials, as well as economic developers and community leaders, of Amazon HQ2 finalist cities, to put an end to such an imprudent policy.

To do so, we call upon you to forge and sign a mutual non-aggression pact that rejects such egregious tax giveaways and direct monetary incentives for the Amazon headquarters.

States, cities, and metropolitan regions should compete on the underlying strength of their communities—not on public handouts to private business.

Sincerely,

Richard Florida, University of Toronto

Edward Glaeser, Harvard University

Robert Putnam, Harvard University

Bruce Katz, Brookings Institution

Vernon Henderson, London School of Economics

Enrico Moretti, University of California, Berkeley

Jeff Sachs, Columbia University

Jason Furman, Harvard Kennedy School, Former Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers

Robert Reich, University of California-Berkeley, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor

Alan B. Krueger, Princeton University, Former Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers

Laura Tyson, University of California, Berkeley, Former Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors

Timothy Bartik, Upjohn Institute

Kathryn Shaw, Stanford University

Dani Rodrik, Harvard University

Robert Sampson, Harvard University

Ryan Enos, Harvard University

Glenn Loury, Brown University

Geoffrey West, Santa Fe Institute

Michael Storper, UCLA and London School of Economics

Saskia Sassen, Columbia University

Joel Kotkin, Chapman University

Stephanie Kelton, StonyBrook University, Former Chief Economist for Bernie Sanders

Thea Lee, Economic Policy Institute

Amy Glasmeier, MIT

Erik Brynjolfsson MIT

Scott Stern, MIT

Zeynep Ton, MIT

William Easterly, New York University

Patrick Sharkey, New York University

Mitchell Moss, New York University

Mark Kleiman, New York University

Ingrid Gould Ellen, New York University

Jonathan Haidt, New York University

Scott Galloway, New York University

Emily Talen, University of Chicago

Luc Anselin, University of Chicago

Justin Wolfers, University of Michigan

Gabriel Metcalfe, SPUR

Teresa Lynch, Mass Economics

Lenny Mendonca, New America 

Ken Greenberg, Urbanist, Former Director of Architecture and Urban Design for the City of Toronto

Brent Toderian, Council for Canadian Urbanism, Former Chief Planner, City of Vancouver

Kirsten Wyatt, Engaging Local Government Leaders

Aaron Renn, Urbanist

Kaid Benfield, Urbanist

Alan Pisarski, Transportation Specialist

Ian Hathaway, Brookings Institution

Charles Marohn, Strong Town

Myron Orfield Jr., University of Minnesota

Dean Baker, Center for Economic Policy and Research

Brink Lindsey, Niskanen Center

Will Wilkinson, Niskanen Center

Adam Grant, University of Pennsylvania

Eugenie Birch, University of Pennsylvania

Gilles Duranton, University of Pennsylvania

Moshe Adler, Columbia University

Allen Scott, UCLA

Steven Durlauf, University of Chicago

David Audretsch, Indiana University

Zoltan Acs, George Mason University

David Albouy, University of Illinois

Chris Tilly, UCLA

Roger Martin, University of Toronto

Will Strange, University of Toronto

Nate Baum-Snow, University of Toronto

Joshua Gans, University of Toronto

Jennifer Keesmaat, University of Toronto, Former Chief Planner, City of Toronto

Steven Teles, Johns Hopkins University and Niskanen Center

Gregory D. Squires, George Washington University

Andres Duany, University of Miami

Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, University of Miami

Alan Berger, MIT

Nathan Jensen, University of Texas at Austin

Richard Green, USC

Edward J. Malecki, The Ohio State University

Ellen Dunham-Jones, Georgia Institute of Technology

Chris Leinberger, George Washington University

Arthur C. Nelson, University of Arizona

Joan Fitzgerald, Northeastern University

William Riggs, University of California, San rancisco

Kenneth Thomas, University of Missouri-St. Louis

John Gildebloom, University of Lousiville

Gerald Carlino, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Jose Lobo, Arizona State University

Ben Hecht, Living Cities

Jennifer Bradley, Aspen Institute

Joe Cortright, City Observatory

Lynn Richards, Congress for New Urbanism

Patrice Frey, National Main Street Center

Jeremy Nowak, Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, Drexel University

Jonathan Bowles, Center for an Urban Future

Greg LeRoy, Good Jobs First

Nicholas Johnson, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Michael Mazerov, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Alan Essig, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy

Stacy Mitchell, Institute for Local Self-Reliance


Related stories