Detroit and Windsor might have a shot at Amazon HQ2, but at what cost?

 

Last updated: 10:12 a.m., 11/2/17

Photo taken from Amazon.com.

The prospect of housing the Amazon HQ2 has stirred cities into a frenzy, pitching everything from unprecedented tax breaks and in some cases, even offering to fight a bear, but the Detroit-Windsor joint bid is an underdog choice that might just have a chance.

In a Toronto Star editorial titled, “Detroit-Windsor an Inspired Choice for Amazon HQ2,” political strategist Tiffany Gooch argues the sister cities might have a shot.

“Of the Canadian options, Detroit-Windsor is the only competitive bid that physically connects two countries with one campus,” she writes. “The bidding team is even exploring a gondola alongside other creative options to link the two downtown offices across the Detroit river.”

 

The ability to attract a workforce from both two countries and to contribute to the “underdog” revitalization story might just be enough to snag the deal, she argues.

Jamey Essex, an associate professor in the political science department at the University of Windsor who works with the Cross-Border Institute, says while housing HQ2 will have some benefits economically, it would also impact housing and could lead to gentrification.

“In Detroit you see a lot of displacement, they change the building codes, etc., so a kind of a clearing out of poor people to make room for wealthier people,” he said. “Windsor is a smaller city but there are parts of town that could be gentrified [if HQ2 were to move to Detroit.]”

He said if HQ2 were to move to Detroit, Windsor would attract residents from bigger Canadian cities like Toronto or Vancouver who could live in Windsor and commute to the campus, and that they would quickly buy up housing, leading to a possible housing crisis.

Wayne State professor in the urban planning and studies department, Patrick Cooper-McCann, said if Windsor and Detroit were to win the bid, many people would move to the cities, and unless more housing was created, there would be an increase in rent.

Another consequence of winning the bid could be a creation of job shortages in another important Windsor-Detroit industry–the auto industry.

“[Amazon] would need thousands of engineers,” he said. “We have a lot of those, but it would pull people out of those jobs in other industries, like the auto industry, and exacerbate hiring problems.”

He also said there’s not way to know if bringing Amazon to Detroit and Windsor would have a positive net effect on Detroit, since the joint bid did not disclose the amount of tax incentives offered.

“They might not have to pay property taxes or even sales tax,” he said.

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