Of Course Amazon Wouldn’t Pay Taxes in Pittsburgh, Nobody Does!

Patrick Young
6 min readFeb 10, 2018

Last year online retail giant Amazon announced plans to build its second headquarters “somewhere in North America” bringing as many as 50,000 jobs and billions in direct investment to whatever community was lucky enough to host the company’s new expansion. The company released a request for proposals laying out the company’s site and building requirements and inviting cities around the continent to submit bids to host the new headquarters building.

In laying out its key preferences and decision drivers, Amazon told cities, “we want to encourage you to think big and be creative as you are collaborating to respond.”

Not surprisingly, the announcement set off a veritable bidding war. In total the company received 238 formal bids from cities, states and regions across North America. Newark, New Jersey offered $7 billion in tax incentives; Montgomery County, Virginia told Amazon that they were ready to write a “blank check” for roads, public transit, and any other infrastructure upgrades the company wants; and Stonecrest, Georgia even offered to create a new town named Amazon, Georgia if it was selected.

And those are only the publicly released offers. The most salacious and consequential offers will likely never be released. Amazon’s request for proposals required that candidate cities agree to a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement in order to be included in the bidding frenzy.

Not to be passed up for consideration for a major tech expansion (or an opportunity to give away huge tax breaks), Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto jumped to action. On October 19th, Peduto’s administration announced that Pittsburgh had submitted its bid for Amazon’s second headquarters. He later cited the city’s population decline as a reason for courting the tech giant, saying Pittsburgh is “a city that has room to grow. We were a city of over 700,00. Today we’re a city of over 300,000.”

Pittsburghers immediately began to wonder what Peduto had offered Amazon to come to Pittsburgh. Had he offered to replace the city’s bike lanes with Amazon Prime lanes? Would Lawerenceville be renamed Bezosville? Exactly how huge were the tax incentives? In total, the city and county received 17 open records requests for Amazon-related information in the…