Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy is open to a reset in his company’s sometimes-contentious relationship with Seattle, but made clear that he’s hedging his bets with plans to expand in neighboring cities.
The world’s largest online retailer is by far the biggest private employer in Seattle with more than 50,000 workers. That distinction has proved a headache in recent years, with some residents and government officials blaming the company for exacerbating homelessness and traffic.
“I’d say the last five years, the city council has become less enamored with business or with Amazon,” Jassy said during an event hosted by technology news site GeekWire. “It’s just been rougher.”
Amazon, along with other businesses, successfully beat back a proposed per-employee tax on large businesses in 2018. The next year, it helped bankroll a slate of business-friendly city council candidates with a $1 million contribution to a fund affiliated with the local chamber of commerce. The largest political contribution by a company in memory backfired, and most of the chamber’s slate lost.
The company, which is wrapping up construction of an expanded Seattle headquarters campus, has since shifted its expansion planning toward neighboring cities like Bellevue and Redmond. Bellevue, just east of Seattle, “is where most of our growth will end up being,” Jassy said. He added that he wouldn’t be surprised if Amazon opened other offices in additional cities in the region.
A few years ago, Amazon stopped referring to Seattle as its hometown, instead citing the Puget Sound region, the Pacific Ocean inlet abutting Seattle and neighboring cities, as its headquarters. On Tuesday, Jassy did it again.
“We’ll always have a lot of people in Puget Sound,” he said. “Where they end up being in Puget Sound is very much to be determined.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.