I grew up in Dubai before it became the Dubai you might now picture. When I was there in the 1980s, the tallest building was 39 stories and it remained the tallest building in the city until 1999. Now Dubai looks like a city from the future. One can imagine a Blade Runner sequel filmed on the streets of Dubai today.
My friends who go back to Dubai now hate it. They tell me the city is overrun with Russian mobsters, prostitutes and assorted other characters. The buildings, they tell me, are Potemkin fields of dreams. The city drained all the oil and bet big on building massive buildings hoping people would come. Many of them are crumbling inside and empty. The parking lot of the airport fills with expensive cars covered in sand. The owners abandoned them and fled the city before the debtors prisons could incarcerate them. Dubai has overextended itself and changed culturally.
Here, Gov. Nathan Deal has announced if Georgia makes the top three list for Amazon’s second headquarters, he would gladly call the state Legislature back in session for even more tax incentives than the state has already offered. I wonder at what point we risk a Dubai-style problem of overtaxed infrastructure in the name of building things hoping Amazon comes. Because though our political and business leaders will not mention it, there are great costs associated with this that might not be recouped.
The state believes that in attracting Amazon the state will bring in jobs, in new people looking for jobs, and thereby boost tax revenue to the state. The problem is the incentives and costs related to attracting Amazon. Despite protestations to the contrary, there is no way to guarantee the initial costs can be recovered.
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Amazon is demanding so much real estate that it essentially wants to fill up to nine Bank of America Plazas. That is the tallest building in Atlanta and Amazon needs about nine of them. That will overuse Georgia’s already overextended infrastructure. We have no good municipal transportation system in the Atlanta area. They wasted their money on a streetcar no one desires and MARTA does not have the comprehensive heavy rail structure it needs.
Then there are the real estate costs. Amazon’s typical worker does not like to commute, so they would probably want to live in the area. If they stay in Atlanta, we are going to see massive gentrification overnight in core areas and, with that, massive property tax increases that will price existing homeowners out of the area.
Of course we still are not talking about local businesses. Amazon will replace some local businesses. Do not take my word for it. Just go talk to local leaders in Seattle. As Amazon has taken over downtown Seattle, local shops have had to close. Long time local restaurants shut down as did local clothiers and others. They could no longer afford the property taxes and could not keep up with the economies of scale.
Then there is the cultural problem. Georgia’s leaders are already drafting plans to stop Christian adoption agencies from helping the state place children. They do not want to offend the liberal leaders of Amazon who think faith-based adoption agencies are bad because they only allow married heterosexual couples to use them.
In chasing the almighty dollar, Georgia’s political leaders are willing to bend culturally to the left, which will only expedite the in your face culture wars so many other parts of the country are experiencing. At some point, luring Amazon is just too much to ask Georgia’s citizens.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.