The Amazon Effect
With the future of Amazon’s HQ2 suddenly in doubt, we get an expert analysis of what such a facility could mean to Westchester if it arrives.
Photo collage images: Adobestock & www.quotecatalog.com
When Jeff Bezos announced plans to open two new headquarters for Amazon, counties nationwide vied to present themselves as the ideal home for the retail giant — Westchester included. Though the 914 wasn’t the big-ticket winner, our great state was (along with Arlington, VA) chosen as the spot for HQ2. Given Amazon’s brand-new Long Island City location and Westchester’s proximity to it, our county is virtually certain to be affected.
Some New Yorkers criticized the plan, citing hefty incentives given to Amazon at the taxpayers’ expense, but many Westchesterites are pleased with Bezos’ choice, anticipating changes within the county’s economy, housing market, and employment as a result.
Carolyn Mandelker, owner of Armonk-based PR/marketing firm Harrison Edwards, says that Amazon’s Queens location could have a “tremendous and positive impact” on Westchester. “It will attract other high-tech and innovation companies to our area, and these companies will be looking for talent.” To prepare for the inevitable influx of new residents and the tech force, Mandelker — whose firm has led broadband-deployment campaigns for clients from coast to coast — emphasizes the necessity for the county infrastructure to provide high-speed Internet access throughout the region to be fully competitive in the new economy.
Thom Kleiner, executive director of the Westchester-Putnam Workforce Development Board, is preparing the local workforce for the e-commerce titan’s arrival. Westchester-Putnam Workforce Development, the Economic Development office, and Westchester County Tourism departments, he says, “are coordinating efforts to let Amazon know the resources we have here in terms of employees, housing, and recreational activities, and to let Amazon know we have an exceptionally attractive workforce.” Kleiner adds that 47 percent of Westchester residents over 25 have post-secondary degrees or higher, making them “prime” candidates for Amazon.
According to Professor Christoph Winkler, founding program director of Iona College’s Hynes Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, Amazon’s choice of location makes total sense. “In the tech sector, New York City has basically caught up with Silicon Valley; I think Amazon’s commitment to New York is clearly a reflection of that.”
Debbie Doern, brokerage manager of Houlihan Lawrence’s Larchmont office, anticipates that Amazon’s NYC HQ2 will “revitalize some of the surrounding areas, likely changing the rental price points and retail landscape.” As she explains: “Because the majority of employees are [likely to be] Millennials, who look for convenience and a short commute, they will likely stay close to home. More established, executive-level employees will likely have southern Westchester County on the short list for their home searches. We are a reasonable commute, with a great variety of housing stock. Exceptional schools and desirable communities have historically been the draw for executives; we anticipate that this will continue
The Commissioner of Development for the City of New Rochelle, Luiz Aragon, expects that his city and all of lower Westchester “will be a close and convenient location for Amazon’s workers in Long Island city, especially when Penn Station access is completed in a few years.”
“From a parochial standpoint,” says Kleiner, “Amazon’s arrival gives us in Westchester the opportunity to promote this county as a great place to live, work, and play.”