Bellevue responds to Amazon move: ‘An amazing opportunity’
The City of Bellevue is welcoming Amazon with open-arms as the tech giant moves thousands of jobs across Lake Washington.
GeekWire reported exclusively Wednesday morning that Amazon will begin moving its worldwide operations team to Bellevue this month, finishing the move in 2023.
The move did not come entirely without foreshadowing. KTTH’s Jason Rantz reported in February that Amazon could move up to 10,000 employees to the Eastside. Redfin reported in March that there was “speculation” that Amazon was planning to lease a space in Bellevue that could hold upwards of 25,000 employees.
Bellevue Chamber of Commerce President and former Washington State Senator Joe Fain told the Dori Monson Show that in light of what a tech hub the Eastside has become, the Amazon announcement was certainly not unexpected.
“We’ve seen this type of major growth in the Bellevue tech sector for a number of years, and we’ve seen companies that have seen what Bellevue has to offer on a whole host of items, so it’s no surprise that they’d want to do this,” he said. “But it is an exciting opportunity to see such a great international company really double-down on its commitment to the city.”
“We’re looking very forward to welcoming them to Bellevue and making sure that they have a great experience working here,” Bellevue Mayor John Chelminiak told KIRO Radio.
Eastside real estate mogul and former Washington State Representative Kemper Freeman, who owns the Bellevue Collection, said that the news comes at a time when Bellevue is booming more than ever before in its history.
“The commercial real estate market in Seattle and Bellevue is at an all-time high, it has never been a better time for things to happen,” he said. “That means better jobs and more taxes and better services from government — it just is what makes everything work. It’s a beautiful thing.”
While also quick to extol Bellevue’s appeal, Fain did not criticize Amazon’s current home. The chamber president doesn’t “look at it so much as a Seattle versus Bellevue kind of thing” and emphasized that he wants Bellevue to be “a partner with Seattle.”
“There are some companies that want to be in an environment that’s got a stable political culture, that has got stable communities, and I think Bellevue has to offer that,” he said. “So I don’t think it’s an either-or, but it is showing that Bellevue has a lot to offer.”
Freeman does not predict that Amazon moving thousands of employees out of Seattle will be hugely detrimental for Seattle, but he does find fault with Seattle’s politics.
“If the political leaders of Seattle just stop and think, what would they do if they were in Amazon’s shoes? Is this the way they would want to be treated? I can’t imagine that they could say yes to that,” he said. “So I think the bad political ideas are more damaging to Seattle than whatever Amazon does or doesn’t do. They’ve got problems to fix one way or the other.”
But, he said, Seattle’s “economy is strong” and attracting many new companies, so “it’s not like this is the end of Seattle.”
Chelminiak pointed out that some Bellevue companies, such as Expedia, have moved or are moving jobs over to Seattle, so the process works both ways.
“It’s important that we keep jobs in the greater Seattle region … I see it as a success for the region, because we are keeping those jobs here in the Puget Sound area,” he said.
The mayor added that the City of Bellevue will work with Amazon every step of the way to make sure that the transition “goes smoothly” and that employees “have a good experience here.”
The addition of thousands of new employees will bring more traffic to an ever-more-crowded Eastside, but city leaders are confident that Bellevue can mitigate any major congestion issues.
“If you’ve got a functioning political organization like our current city council … the desire is to take the problem, to sit down, and figure out the solution,” Fain said, adding, “This shouldn’t be viewed as, ‘Oh no, Amazon is coming to town, the sky is falling.’ It should be viewed as, ‘What a great opportunity. What do we need to do to prepare for it?'”
Some of these options, according to Fain, include expanding transit, shuttles, and ridesharing technologies.
“There’s plenty of work to be done to make sure that we do all the best things with transportation and all the other things so that we don’t just get more taxes, and all we get is more traffic,” Freeman said. “We’ve got a lot of things to figure out — I work on that every day, and I’m convinced there are many things we can do to soften the traffic blow.”
He said that he is working with some of “the best transportation engineers in the country” and spending millions to get these questions answered.
“For reasons I don’t understand, sometimes our government thinks the idea is, just get rid of the cars, don’t build any more roads, everyone is just going to walk or ride their bicycle … there are solutions, and many of them cost much less than what we’re spending, and do far more to accommodate traffic, reduce congestion, and are good for the environment,” he said.