Press conference presenting Charlotte USA’s Amazon HQ2 Project
Amazon.com is not building its second headquarters in North Carolina. But the city of Charlotte is getting ready to finally reveal the most coveted and controversial local part of the story: how much taxpayer money it offered Amazon.
The tech giant said Tuesday morning that it has picked New York City and the Washington, D.C. suburbs of northern Virginia as the dual locations for its coveted HQ2. Amazon said it’ll invest $5 billion and add up to 50,000 jobs at each site. In its announcement, Amazon said it could receive more than $2 billion in tax incentives from the two locations.
In an email to the Observer Tuesday, city spokeswoman Britt Clampitt said that “Charlotte values open government and is compiling and will release public records related to the bid for Amazon HQ2.”
Citing a part of the North Carolina public records law, Clampitt said the city will disclose the records “as soon as practicable, and within 25 business days.”
N.C. Commerce Secretary Tony Copeland said in an interview with The (Raleigh) News & Observer Tuesday that the state hadn’t had a meaningful conversation with Amazon since March, when company executives visited the Triangle and met with local university and economic development leaders for two days.
Copeland said that North Carolina’s incentive package was “very competitive” with what New York and Virginia offered. But Amazon never formally told the state that it was out of the running, Copeland added.
Amazon’s search for its second headquarters has prompted disputes nationwide over how much taxpayer money cities should offer to woo multibillion-dollar private corporations — and whether citizens have a right to know how much is being offered.
Some media organizations have taken legal action to attain the records. In late October, for instance, a judge ordered the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to release the region’s bid for Amazon’s HQ2 after WTAE-TV filed a “Right-to-Know request,” the station reported.
Last January, nearly three months after 238 cities submitted bids for the project, Amazon narrowed down its list of potential headquarters cites to 20 finalists. Raleigh made the cut; Charlotte, Hickory and the Triad did not.
The city of Charlotte, citing state public records law, has denied the Observer’s public records requests for information relating to the city’s bid four times over the last 12 months.
The statute says that once a business has announced its plans to expand or locate a project “in this state or the business has made a final decision not to do so ... the provisions of this subsection allowing public records to be withheld by the agency no longer apply.”
In an email to the Observer Oct. 23, city attorney Bob Hagemann said that the city would not release its records about the project because the Raleigh region was still in the running, and Charlotte “does not want to do anything that might compromise North Carolina’s chance to land the HQ2.”
A few weeks after Charlotte submitted its bid last fall, the Charlotte Regional Partnership, the group that coordinated the effort, released some details on the region’s bid, including a five-minute video focused on the city’s growing young population. But it didn’t shed light on other key details in the proposal, such as how much in incentives Charlotte had offered.
Observer staff writer Ely Portillo and (Durham) Herald-Sun staff writer Zachery Eanes contributed.