‘We don’t think of Seattle as HQ1’: New Amazon CEO describes ‘rougher’ relationship with city

Oct 7, 2021, 7:32 AM | Updated: 1:02 pm
Amazon Seattle, corporate HQ...
The Space Needle is seen near The Spheres at Amazon in downtown Seattle. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Amazon now has a new CEO in Andy Jassy, and with that comes a new perspective on the company’s relationship with the city of Seattle.

Jassy provided insight into that relationship at a Geekwire-hosted panel on Tuesday, detailing an increasingly more tenuous connection to Seattle, which he credited to a city council that “has become less enamored with business or with Amazon.”

“It’s just been rougher,” he opined.

Jassy described a “first 20ish years” that he qualified as “pretty collaborative,” driven by the construction of its downtown Seattle campus.

Then in May of 2018, Seattle City Council unanimously approved a so-called “head tax,” which would have taxed 500 businesses making more than $20 million annually in gross receipts. It was expected to raise $47 million annually, with a large portion of that money earmarked for affordable housing and homeless response efforts.

Seattle head tax 101: How the process played out in 2018

At the time, Amazon warned the city against going through with the levy, going so far as to halt construction on a downtown Seattle tower, while hinting that it would consider moving jobs out of the city in the face of an increased tax burden.

Following increased public pressure and a lengthy negotiation with the mayor’s office  — which later spurred a costly lawsuit over violations of the state’s open public meetings laws — councilmembers voted 7-2 to repeal the tax.

Despite the council’s repeal, though, Amazon began to build out space in Bellevue in the ensuing year, making plans in 2019 to construct the largest office tower the Eastside city has ever seen.

With three years now having passed since the head tax controversy, Seattle has a different levy on the books, taxing corporations with payrolls over $7 million. Under the measure, qualifying businesses are taxed 0.7% for every employee making over $150,000, and 1.4% for employees making over $500,000.

Seattle council passes landmark big business tax proposal

That has Jassy shifting Amazon’s verbiage away from the city where it put down roots nearly two decades ago.

“We don’t think of HQ1 being Seattle any longer — we really think of it as Puget Sound,” he noted. “We have a lot of people in Seattle, but we also have a lot of people in Bellevue and it is where most of our growth will end up being.”

Amazon has at least seven spaces in Bellevue that it either plans to move into or is already occupying. That includes roughly 2,000 employees in Expedia’s former Bellevue corporate headquarters. Employees from Amazon’s worldwide operations team also began moving to Bellevue in April 2019, with the company planning to eventually have the several thousand employees on that team entirely operating from the Eastside.

Amazon still currently has over 50,000 employees in Seattle.

Local News

Photo from KIRO 7...
Jake Chapman, KIRO 7 News

Tacoma’s camping ban nearly a month in effect; continues to draw controversy

 Tacoma’s camping ban ordinance has been in effect since Nov. 14. The city council approved the measure six to three and ever since, the decision has gotten some backlash from community members.
6 hours ago
mount vernon...
Nicole Jennings

Mt. Vernon Schools exploring shorter summer, more mid-year breaks

The Mount Vernon School District is considering shortening summer vacation and adding more breaks during the school year.
1 day ago
auburn doughnut...
Kevin Ko, KIRO 7 News

Auburn doughnut shop site of multiple crashes

No injuries were reported, but it’s unclear if the driver was hurt. The driver left the scene by the time officers arrived, according to Crossley.
1 day ago
Heather Bosch

FTC sues to block Microsoft from buying maker of Call of Duty

The FTC is suing to block Microsoft's $69 billion deal to acquire video game company Activision Blizzard, which produces Call of Duty.
1 day ago
Pierce County investigation into Sheriff...
Darren Dedo

Pierce Co. searching for teens who assaulted man on bus

The Pierce County Sheriff's Office said surveillance video showed the suspects boarded the bus at the Spanaway Walmart at 5:07 p.m.
1 day ago
Pierce County Sheriff Ed Troyer...
Bill Kaczaraba

Gee Scott: Sheriff Ed Troyer is ‘an embarrassment’ to all officers

Gee Scott says "Ed Troyer is an embarrassment to all the men and women of the Pierce County Sheriff's Department."
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
‘We don’t think of Seattle as HQ1’: New Amazon CEO describes ‘rougher’ relationship with city