Amazon has released a list of 20 cities that are still in the running for their headquarters. Atlanta is considered one of the top options along with Washington, D.C. and Austin, TX. When I first heard we’d submitted a proposal, I was excited at the prospect. I moved back to Metro Atlanta specifically because of the career prospects. Now that I’ve purchased my home, I’m in it for the long-term and a corporate graphic designer needs corporations for career viability. The Amazon Effect can’t be denied. They will bring an economic boost.
But those were my first thoughts. Now I’ve had time to think about what I know about corporations and their addition to any city. Here’s the thing: People talk about Seattle differently than they used to. Perhaps, that’s directly related to Amazon’s presence there? I don’t know … but this article makes a convincing case.
But here is what I do know: With any large company, you can expect increased traffic and higher real estate prices. In case you haven’t noticed, Atlanta has more than enough gentrification taking place and our commutes are already a nightmare. The city and surrounding areas are congested. As the memes across the internet jokingly (okay, they are serious) state, “We Are Full.”
When I first left Florida for Atlanta, many of my friends mentioned that I’d probably return. Instead, I’ve watched quite a few friends move here, and I know many would come if they had a job offer. In 2015, an article dubbed Atlanta the most “Unequal City In America.” My opinion is that the article is still valid. When I first arrived, I’d been laid off from my job and I was living in my aunt’s guestroom. In the time from 2013 to now, I’ve managed to secure a better job with a higher wage and stabilize my life and purchase a home. It’s a true success story, one proving that Atlanta is full of opportunity. However, it also allowed me to experience the city from multiple price points and perspectives. What I can tell you is that I was extremely fortunate. I’ve watched far more people succumb to the pitfalls of the city than I have become my new neighbors.
Atlanta may have a low unemployment rate and jobs being added on an almost daily basis, but all of those jobs aren’t high paying, salaried positions. Retail, hospitality, and service industries aren’t exactly known for having living wages. And those workers are as subject to the longer commutes and stunted public transportation system as the rest of us. They are also affected by the disappearing affordable housing, which means their commutes are getting even WORSE as they move further out. And public assistance is a joke in Georgia. If you know anyone intimately that lives at the poverty level, you realize it’s not all roses. I absolutely would not still be here if I depended on government assistance.
While some are dubbing Atlanta the “Silicon Valley of the South,” which may be why Amazon is so interested, I think many who live here will agree with me. Yes, Metro Atlanta is booming … but at a price. One that Amazon may only increase. The area has a host of problems they haven’t even begun to work out and I just don’t see how Amazon will help fix any of them. If anything, wherever Amazon lands, they’ll probably become as dominant as they are in Seattle, making any changes implemented about their company and not what’s best for the city. Given that we didn’t need Amazon to earn that Silicon Valley nickname, why risk the downsides of having their headquarters here? With or without Amazon, Atlanta will continue to have a strong economy. And we definitely aren’t in need of an influx of workers. Metro Atlanta’s population is booming too. If you’re asking me, D.C., Austin or any other city on that list can have them!
Our commutes will thank us later.