retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Amazon this morning announced that it plans to expand technology hubs in six cities - Dallas, Detroit, Denver, New York (Manhattan), Phoenix, and San Diego - and create a total of 3,500 corporate and technology jobs in those locations.

The company says it "will invest more than $1.4 billion in these new offices, which will host teams supporting businesses across the company … Teams in these cities will support various businesses across Amazon, including AWS, Alexa, Amazon Advertising, Amazon Fashion, OpsTech and Amazon Fresh, among others. The company expects to hire for a variety of roles, from cloud infrastructure architects and software engineers to data scientists, product managers, and user experience designers."

In its analysis, the Wall Street Journal notes that Amazon appears to be making a commitment to "office work even as other companies embrace lasting remote employment."  While Amazon has said that because of the pandemic office employees are not expected to return to the office until January 8, 2021 - a date that could change if the pandemic worsens, of course - it has said that it expects that people eventually will return to the office.

"The ability to connect with people, the ability for teams to work together in an ad hoc fashion—you can do it virtually, but it isn’t as spontaneous,” says Ardine Williams, Amazon's vice president of Workforce Development.  "We are looking forward to returning to the office."

KC's View:

Maybe I'm wrong on this, and maybe I'm just underestimating the tax advantages that were generated in the search, but reading this press release makes me wonder exactly what all the hubbub was about when Amazon was looking for a second headquarters campus, dubbed HQ2.

On the other hand, it may be that all the intelligence that Amazon was able to gather in its HQ2 search - three of the six cities mentioned in this announcement, after all, were among the finalists - actually gave it the information it needed for this expansion.

Though … it should be noted that Amazon says it isn't being given any tax or financial incentives for choosing these markets.  Probably a good thing, since the pandemic has created enormous financial stresses on most if not all cities, and they don't have a lot of cash to spare.  In a time when cities have not been getting a lot of good news, the notion that Amazon plans to spend money and create jobs in their markets is a kind of silver lining in what has been a very stormy year.

Perhaps it was never just about HQ2.  Perhaps it was about gathering all the pieces of a puzzle that even now is just beginning to take shape.